B.1.1.7 variant identified at state prison in Ionia

Coronavirus
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IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — A case of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant has been identified inside a state prison in Ionia.

The Michigan Department of Corrections announced the single case at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility off Bluewater Highway in a Wednesday release. MDOC did not specify whether the patient was a prisoner or worker.

MDOC says the Bellamy Creek case is the first time the variant has been identified in a state prison.

It will now be testing every inmate and worker at Bellamy Creek daily to track whether the variant spreads within the prison, as specified in a new epidemic order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

MDOC also noted that several prisoners who has contracted COVID-19 were recently transferred to Duane Waters Health Center and Macomb Correctional Facility, where the department has been housing inmates who have the virus. Everyone at those facilities will also start undergoing daily testing for at least two weeks.

“The MDOC will be taking extra steps to identify where this variant is present amongst staff and the prisoner population and we will continue to do everything we can to keep the prisoners, our staff and the community safe,” MDOC Director Heidi Washington said in a statement. 

Michigan has now recorded 61 cases of the variant in 11 counties. B.1.1.7, which was initially identified in the United Kingdom, is not currently believed to lead to more serious cases of COVID-19, but it does spread more quickly.

Health officials say the way to slow the variant’s spread is to follow standard mitigation protocols like hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing. Also key will be vaccinating people as quickly as possible to both prevent the spread of the variant and new ones from mutating.

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