COVID-19

The ongoing trouble with variants

Even as infection rates decline, COVID variants still pose a significant danger to Michigan.

COVID-19 infection rates in Michigan are on the decline. As of Saturday, the state is averaging just 466 new cases per day – a far cry from the more than 7,000 cases per day counted in mid-April.

That may convince you to let your guard down regarding the coronavirus. But the pandemic isn’t over yet, and health officials are warning residents to beware of COVID variants that are still sweeping through the state.

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The most prominent variant is undoubtedly B.1.1.7 – now being referred to by the World Health Organization as the Alpha variant. It is estimated to be 50% more transmissible that previously dominant types of the coronavirus.

First discovered in Washtenaw County in January, it has quickly become the new dominant strain in the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Alpha makes up more 77% of coronavirus infections in Michigan.

Fortunately, current vaccines seem to protect against this and other variants. Unfortunately, vaccine hesitancy throughout the state means a lot of people are still vulnerable.

Dr. Emily Martin, an epidemiology professor at the University of Michigan, told the Detroit News that another surge of the coronavirus could be worse than we’ve seen so far.

“If you were to have an outbreak this Memorial Day, it would probably be 50% bigger than the same outbreak that would have happened last Memorial Day in unvaccinated people,” she said. “Because of the way the variant transmits, it’s basically 50% better at infecting a person.”

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