Health officials work to keep new COVID-19 variant under control in Washtenaw County

Posted at 5:21 AM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 05:21:04-05

(WXYZ) — The University of Michigan is working to combat the spread of the new variant of COVID-19 with a two-week pause for all university athletics.

The Washtenaw County Health Department says several people affiliated with U-M's athletic program tested positive for the more contagious COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7. As a result, all school sports are on hold for two weeks.

"The concern is it can spread more easily and impact more people," Susan Cerniglia from the Washtenaw County Health Department said.

The department issued an alert after the first five cases were identified in the Ann Arbor area.

She said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of a new director, is being proactive and strategic to keep people safe.

“We expect demand for testing to increase," Cerniglia said.

The CDC said the new strain could become the dominant form of COVID-19 in the U.S. by March, and could even be more deadly, but current vaccines are still believed to be effective.

“It’s not surprising it’s here and doesn’t necessarily change the actions we should be doing right now," Cerniglia added.

While U-M isn't commenting on camera yet, there's been no word of any additional cancellations of programs. The state said immediate testing and quarantine are strongly encouraged for anyone who could be at risk.

Social distancing, mask-wearing, avoiding crowds and hand-washing all are being reinforced as well.

“Those all matter and we really need to make sure we are doing them," she said.

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