GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Kent County Department of Health announced Sunday afternoon that the UK variant of COVID-19 B.1.1.7 has been confirmed here.
KCHD’s marketing and communications manager, Steve Kelso, made the announcement shortly after 2:00 p.m. Sunday.
The department issued the following statement:
“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) notified the Kent County Department of Health (KCHD) that a variant of COVID-19 known as SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 has been confirmed in Kent County residents.
This variant is worrying because it is associated with increased transmission. Compared to the original virus, variant B.1.1.7 is approximately 50 percent more contagious, causing the virus to spread faster and potentially increasing the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The presence of the rapidly spreading variant in Kent County illustrates the importance of remaining vigilant in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Proper use of masks, social distancing and good hand hygiene practices continue to be the most effective measures to combat the spread of disease. KCHD also encourages residents to limit their interactions with people living outside their own households.
“Basically it’s a race for our population coverage; a competition that pits the vaccination against infection transmission, “said Dr. Adam London, Director of the KCHD. “While we are working to minimize the impact of COVID-19 infection, variant B.1.1.7 increases the speed of the virus.”
The KCHD is encouraging testing of individuals who have traveled out of Michigan in the past 14 days, particularly into areas where the new variant is widely circulated.
The SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 is thought to have appeared in the United Kingdom and has been detected in many countries and states. MDHHS has identified 30 cases of variant B.1.1.7 in Michigan. While the majority of these cases have been found in the southeastern part of the state, the latest confirmation of a case in Kalamazoo and now in Kent district illustrates the fast-moving nature of the variant. “