GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Michigan becomes the nation’s newest COVID-19 epicenter, health officials say there are several factors contributing to this surge.  

“Right now, the numbers in Michigan seem to be about the worst in the country,” Adam London, administrative health officer with the Kent County Health Department, said. “There are probably a number of reasons for that — I think the higher prevalence of the COVID-19 variants here in Michigan is one of those reasons.” 

The highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant, which originated in the United Kingdom, has spread quickly throughout the state.  

On Tuesday, the CDC reported Michigan is having the second highest number of B.1.1.7 cases in the country, second only to Florida. 

However, unlike Florida and many other southern states, Michigan has put forth some of the nation’s strictest prevention measures throughout the pandemic. The state recently reopened after a long year of lockdowns and pauses, which health experts say could be a driving force behind this surge.  

“Michigan was really just a fertile territory for another surge as we’re seeing,” Metro Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Grifka said. “The lockdown restrictions we had for so long were very effective, but because of that, a lot of people didn’t get exposed to COVID-19. So now, there are people who are not immunized and haven’t been exposed that now when they do get exposed, they’re going to get infected, so that’s certainly an issue.” 

London also said this could be a driving force behind the surge.  

“We have had … fewer people exposed to the virus over the past year, which means there are more opportunities for the virus to spread now,” London said. “Which makes it all the more important to continue with the discipline of wearing the facial coverings, avoiding social gatherings, (which) makes it difficult for the virus to spread.”