Michigan prison worker tests positive for COVID-19 variant and triggers a new test protocol

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IONIA COUNTY, MI – An employee at a Ionia County prison tested positive for the more contagious variant of COVID-19, triggering tougher tests in the prison.

The Michigan Department of Corrections administrators recorded the development on Wednesday, February 10th.

Variant B.1.1.7 first appeared in the Washtenaw and Wayne counties in southeast Michigan from mid-January, but has since spread to 61 people in at least 10 counties.

The case at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility is the first in the state’s prison system.

As a result of the discovery, all prisoners and staff at the facility will be tested for COVID-19 daily instead of weekly.

Strain B.1.1.7 is believed to be 50 percent more contagious than the dominant virus strain that emerged in the US in early 2020. However, it is not believed to be much more dangerous in terms of the severity of the disease.

“The MDOC will take additional steps to find out where this variant occurs in the staff and the prison population, and we will continue to do everything possible to protect the prisoners, our staff and the community,” said MDOC director Heidi Washington in a written explanation.

The daily tests are also carried out in special “COVID positive” units at the Duane Waters Health Center and the Macomb Correctional Facility. Several Bellamy Creek prisoners were sent to these facilities after testing positive for coronavirus, but before the variant was discovered in Bellamy Creek.

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