The Washtenaw County Health Department has been made aware of possible public exposure to the new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7., at two locations in Ann Arbor. As a precautionary measure, county officials recommend that people present at the Meijer on Ann Arbor Saline Rd. from 9:00 to 10:00 am on Jan. 17 and Briarwood Mall, 100 Briarwood Circle, from 1:00 to 2:00 pm on Jan. 17 immediately get a COVID-19 test.

A total of five individuals in Washtenaw County have tested positive for the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7., according to a Washtenaw County Health Department press release from Saturday afternoon. Three of these cases were discovered in the past week, all of which had ties to the University of Michigan, including the first known case in the state. It is not known if all five cases in the county are connected to the first case, the press release stated.

Elsewhere in Michigan, another positive B.1.1.7. case has been identified in an adult male from Wayne County, according to a separate press release from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Saturday evening. 

Though county officials say brief public exposures are not normally a concern for COVID-19 exposure, the B.1.1.7. variant is more prone to transmission. There has been no immediate indication of the variant having more severe clinical outcomes compared to the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the MDHHS press release, though new information about the variant’s effects are rapidly emerging.

“The new variant is present in Michigan and we are at risk of seeing more spread of COVID-19,” Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS, said in the MDHHS press release. “Everyone should do their part to end this pandemic. Get tested if you have been exposed, have symptoms, or have recently traveled to an area with a new variant spreading.”

Local and state officials are offering no-cost COVID-19 testing sites on Jan. 24 from 12:00 to 5:00 pm at Pioneer High School, 601 W. Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI. Pre-registration is available but not required, according to the WCHD press release. More information is available here. Additional and ongoing testing sites are also available at the WCHD website.

Daily News Editor Kristina Zheng can be reached

Correction: This article has been updated to clarify current knowledge on the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7.’s effects on clinical outcomes.

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