Masking, health precautions remain vital as more-infectious strain of virus found in Kent County, health officials say

Variant strain is referred to as 'B117' and considered 50% to 70% more contagious
Kent Co Health Dept with snow
Posted at 3:37 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 11:19:17-05

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Local health officials say it is important to maintain good health practices now that the more infectious B117 variant of COVID has been confirmed in Kent County.

The variant strain, called B117, is said to be about 50 to 70% more contagious than the initial strain of COVID we've been dealing with the past year or so.

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“We do know that there's a variant strain of COVID-19, identified in the state of Michigan, and here in Kent County as well," Brian Hartl, epidemiology supervisor at Kent Co Health Dept, told FOX 17 on Thursday.

Not every confirmed case of COVID is run through the process that determines it's genome sequence, and in turn what variant it is.

"It takes a couple days to do that. It's not a quick process, by any means, you know, the specimen has to be submitted to the reference lab, and then a sequence," Hartl said.

"Sequencing takes a few days for the results to finally be ready."

Because of this, Hartl says there are probably more cases of the variant strain in West Michigan than we are currently aware of.

Despite this, our numbers here in Kent County have continued to move in a promising direction.

“All the key metrics that we we look at, you know, cases per day, hospitalizations, and deaths are all now in the right direction, so that's good," Hartl said.

RELATED: MDHHS emphasizes importance of testing as new COVID-19 variant cases identified

“The news of this variant just makes us a little bit cautious, that we want to make sure that we don't go backwards.”

The CDC released some updated recommendations on Wednesday, including research that shows wearing 2 masks is more effective at stopping the spread than wearing just 1.

“Really the double mask recommendation is just an added protection against... the regular COVID virus, the variant COVID virus, because really 1 mask is good, as long as it fits properly,” Hartl said Thursday.

“All we're trying to do is get people to think about it, if it works for them, to use the 2 masks, because really, it's just a matter of putting obstacles in the way of the virus getting in or out of your respiratory passages.”

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