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First cases of COVID-19 Delta variant identified in Central Michigan counties

Mateusz Sikora
PLOS Computational Biology
A computer-generated image portrays a novel coronavirus spike protein. The Delta variant of the virus has genetic mutations that make its spike protein better able to bind to human cells than the original strain of the virus.

The Central Michigan District Health Department said Monday that it has identified the first known cases of the coronavirus Delta variant in its six-county jurisdiction.

The health department said in an emailed statement that four cases of the variant have been found across Clare and Isabella Counties.

Dr. Jennifer Morse, the department’s medical director, said the cases are not related to each other, and one of them remains under investigation because of the potential for widespread transmission.

Morse said she’s certain there are more cases of the highly contagious variant in Central Michigan, but lagging testing rates make them difficult to find.

State health department data show new daily cases of COVID-19 have more than doubled in the past two weeks. Daily testing for the virus has increased, too, but not enough to keep pace with cases.

“Anyone who has any symptoms of COVID, you should be getting tested,” Morse said. “That’s been the recommendation all along, it’s just we’ve kind of forgotten that. We’ve gotten a little more comfortable with things.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control lists more than half of Michigan counties as places where coronavirus transmission are “substantial” or “high,” meaning, the agency says, that people there should wear masks in indoor public spaces, even if they’re vaccinated.

But Morse said she hopes even more people take precautions against the virus.

“No matter what written recommendations or rules or anything says, it’s time to pull out all the tools,” she said. “Wear your mask when you’re in public, keep your distancing, wash your hands, avoid large groups -- do all those things you were doing a year ago.”

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.