IONIA, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Corrections has learned that the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant has been detected at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia.
This is the first known case of the variant inside a MDOC facility, according to a news release Wednesday.
After consultation with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, all prisoners and employees there will now be tested daily, rather than the weekly testing they have been conducting.
B.1.1.7 is believed to be more contagious, but there hasn’t yet been any indication that it affects clinical outcomes or disease severity compared to the virus that has been circulating around the U.S. since last year.
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However, a higher rate of transmission could increase the number of people who need to be hospitalized or who could lose their lives to COVID-19 if the new variant begins circulating widely in the state.
As of Wednesday, state officials have reported 61 B.1.1.7 cases across 11 jurisdictions in Michigan.
“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.
This new testing regimen will consist of a daily rapid antigen test.
If a test result comes back positive, then a PCR test will be taken and sent to the state lab for testing for the variant.