Some High School Sports Remain Delayed Over Infection Worries

Concerns grow over more contagious COVID strain. So far, 13 people in Washtenaw County and four in Wayne County have tested positive for the B.1.1.7. strain.

High school athletes, their parents and those against pandemic mitigation efforts are among those lobbying state health officials to restart all sports. The group ‘Let Them Play’ has hired a law firm to explore suing the state in order start up basketball and volleyball seasons.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said sports will resume when it’s safe. 

“Whether it is context sports, or it is bumping up that number for in-person dining,” says Whitmer, “these are actions that will increase contacts and could create spread and that’s why we have to be really smart and incremental as we move forward.”

New Variant is Cause for Concern

The number of new COVID-19 infections in the state has been dropping dramatically since December, though the new more-contagious B.1.1.7. coronavirus strain of COVID-19 has health officials concerned.

Chief Medical Executive Doctor Joneigh Khaldun says it’s important for people to continue to take precautions. 

“We do not want to have to go backwards to slow the great progress we’ve already made,” says Khaldun. “We want to continue to reopen our economy and get back to a sense of normalcy.”

The variant was discovered in a University of Michigan athlete who recently traveled to the United Kingdom. The U.K. remains in lockdown in an attempt to mitigate the rapid spread of the strain. So far, 13 people in Washtenaw County and four in Wayne County have tested positive for the B.1.1.7. strain. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention are reviewing mortality data associated with the variant, but it appears that the existing vaccines are effective against the strain. “Our current test can identify it and our current vaccines appear to work against it,” says Khaldun.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) says about 41,000 COVID tests are done weekly in the state. Testing will be a big part of tracking the new strain in Michigan. 

“By quickly identifying any outbreaks, reaching out to contacts and making sure people are quarantining and isolating appropriately and expanding testing,” says Khaldun.

New Leadership at MDHHS

At Monday’s press conference, Whitmer introduced new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel. She takes over for Robert Gordon who resigned abruptly last Friday. Whitmer refused to answer whether she asked Gordon to resign. Whitmer wished him well and said Gordon’s time in the job was bumpy.

“It’s been a grueling couple of years and changes in administrations happen,” Whitmer says. 

Hertel still needs to be confirmed by the Republican-led state Senate. GOP leaders have threatened to deny the confirmation process unless Whitmer removes all restrictions for entertainment venues, such as indoor dining at restaurants.

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.