Michigan nearing variant “tipping point”

More contagious variants of COVID, mixed with loose restrictions and spring break travel, could lead to a surge of infections.

Two especially contagious variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have made their way into Michigan. As case numbers increase, health officials warn that those variants may be poised to sweep through the state.

One new strain – the B.1.1.7 variant – has spread exponentially throughout the state since it was first discovered in mid-January. That includes outbreaks at an Ionia County prison and school sporting events in Grand Ledge.

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State officials report there have now been 634 confirmed cases of the variant, though many more may exist in the general population.

In terms of raw numbers, Michigan has the second highest case count in the country, after Florida. That’s worrisome to Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, senior public health physician at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

As Michigan loosens COVID-19 restrictions and enters the spring break travel season, we may be reaching a “tipping point,” she told Bridge Michigan.

Even as more people are vaccinated against the coronavirus, variants could lead to surges of new infections. Already, new case numbers are growing in the state, undoing months of declining infections.

“The goal is to make sure that the things that drive down transmission outweigh the things that drive up transmission,” said Bagdasarian.

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