ANN ARBOR (WXYZ) — As of Monday, 13 people who live in Washtenaw County have tested positive for the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 known as B117.
Some or all of them make up a cluster of students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor infected with the variant that health officials say can spread faster and lead to an increase in the number of people who may become seriously ill or die.
Investigators with the Washtenaw County Health Department say they have identified two large public places where one or more of those infected visited prior to knowing they even had COVID-19.
Health officials are now recommending immediate COVID-19 testing for anyone who visited the following locations during the indicated time frames.
· Jan. 17 at the Meijer on Ann Arbor-Saline Rd in Ann Arbor from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
· Jan. 17 at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
For anyone who does not want to undergo testing, health officials urge that they quarantine until Jan. 31, which would be a full 14 days from possible exposure.
While the variant is believed to be more contagious, state health officials have said there is no indication that it "affects the clinical outcomes or disease severity" compared to the SARS-CoV-2 virus which has been around for almost a year.
But U-M public health officials who we're told have also been closely monitoring information on the variant have not ruled out that it could increase the severity of the illness.
It's recommended that people continue with the recommendations listed below.
- Wear a face mask around others
- Keep at least 6 feet apart from others
- Clean hands frequently
- Avoid crowded areas or gatherings
- Ventilate indoor spaces if around others
- Seek testing if ill, exposed, or after travel
- Follow isolation or quarantine guidance if ill, exposed, or waiting on test results
- Get vaccinated when vaccine becomes available to you
The following is a portion of a statement to U-M's campus community from President Mark. S. Schlissel and other university officials:
A more contagious variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.7 was recently identified in a cluster of U-M students. This weekend, we learned of additional cases that are positive for the B.1.1.7 variant, and this number may continue to rise. All of these cases have been investigated and the individuals and their contacts are in isolation or quarantine. In addition, we have tested a broad circle of students who are associated with cases or contacts. We’re also seeing additional clusters of the regular COVID-19 virus in the campus community and are monitoring and addressing those as well.
The university is working closely with state and local public health officials to carefully consider proactive and additional mitigation measures to address the emergence of this more contagious B.1.1.7 strain here on campus as we continue to learn more about this version of the virus. New information suggests that this strain might be more likely to cause severe illness.
It is imperative that everyone be extra careful, and wear face coverings, avoid in-person gatherings, practice social distancing and get tested using the programs we have in place. These measures are effective, but there is less margin for error with this more contagious version of COVID-19. This is a critical time for preventing spread of the virus – to protect one another’s health and preserve our ability to eventually resume more normal activities as we continue our efforts to vaccinate members of our community.
We continue to monitor and support the members of our community who have tested positive for the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, or who have been identified as a close contact.
This is an evolving situation that university health officials are monitoring closely with the Washtenaw County Health Department and Michigan Department of Human Health Services. We continue to check new and prior tests for the variant, and are likely to see more cases.