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HARTFORD — Van Buren County now joins the list of counties in Southwest Michigan reporting cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19.

Van Buren County’s first case was reported last week, according to health department officials.

Van Buren/Cass District Health Department (VBCDHD) officials wrote in a news release, Feb. 8, that further details about the person with the variant are unknown and an investigation is ongoing.

The SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant is thought to have emerged in the United Kingdom and has since been detected in other countries and states. As of Monday, 10 Michigan counties, including Van Buren, have identified cases of the variant.

This variant is concerning because it is associated with increased transmisibility, according to VBCDHD officials. Compared to the wild-type virus, the B.1.1.7 variant is approximately 50 percent more transmissible, leading to faster spread of the virus and potentially increasing numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The VBCDHD is urging people to continue taking precautions against COVID-19, especially with new variants becoming more prevalent. Those precautions include wearing a mask when around others, staying six feet apart from others, washing hands often, ventilating indoor spaces and getting the COVID-19 vaccine when eligible and available.

As of Sunday, Feb. 7, 7,814 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Van Buren County and 2,335 doses had been administered in Cass County.

“The supply of vaccine is limited and it will take time to vaccinate everyone. VBCDHD encourages individuals to be patient during this challenging time,” officials wrote Monday.

Van Buren County recorded 24 new COVID-19 cases over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Feb. 6-8, while Cass County recorded 15.

As of Feb. 10, Van Buren County had recorded a total of 84 deaths from the coronavirus and 4,580 total cases.

Berrien update

Berrien County reached 200 confirmed COVID-19 deaths over the weekend of Feb. 6-7.

In addition, another presumed death was added to the county’s tally, bringing that total to 18.

Over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Feb. 6-8, Berrien County recorded 70 new COVID-19 cases and 156 new recoveries.

With deaths and recoveries, the county was at about 1,106 active COVID-19 cases. That’s down from about 1,300 last Monday.

Spectrum Health Lakeland was treating 16 COVID-19 patients on Monday morning, Feb. 8. That was down from 24 on Friday, Feb. 5, but up from 13 Monday, Feb. 1.

As of Sunday, Feb. 7, 20,413 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Berrien County, with about 4,427 of those being second doses.

State reports

Several area schools were reported to have recent COVID-19 outbreaks Monday by the state.

Outbreaks are defined as two or more COVID-19 cases who may have shared exposure on school grounds and are from different households.

The state reported two student cases at Niles High School, and a staff and student case at Brandywine Middle/High School.

Seven cases in both students and staff were reported at the preschool/elementary level in Edwardsburg Community Schools.

No additional cases were added to the outbreak reported last week at Andrews University, though it’s listed as an ongoing outbreak on the state’s report.

No recent outbreaks were reported at any Van Buren County schools.

COVID-19 outbreaks at Berrien, Cass and Van Buren county long-term care facilities have continued to decline, with just two recent resident cases being reported Monday, Feb. 8, by the state.

Buchanan Meadows Living Center had one recent resident case and three recent resident deaths.

Bronson Commons in Mattawan saw one recent resident case and one recent staff case.

The Timbers of Cass County has seen six recent staff cases.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman