COVID-19 variant outbreak ‘mostly done’ in Grand Ledge

Officials: Outbreak tied to basketball team nears conclusion

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WEDNESDAY, March 17 — A cluster of a more infectious variant of COVID-19 connected Grand Ledge High School appears to have reached its conclusion after infecting at least 49 people over the last several weeks, health and school officials confirmed this afternoon.

On Monday, Grand Ledge Public Schools and the Barry-Eaton District Health Department announced a cluster of 47 cases of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus among students, staff and close contacts of the high school basketball team. 

School and health officials believe the outbreak was tied to a Feb. 18 basketball game between Okemos and Grand Ledge High School. Associated cases climbed to 49 today.

The vast majority of those infected, however, have already been through quarantine and isolation, said Sarah Surna, community health promotion specialist with the Eaton Barry District Health Department. Only two cases were spotted this week. The outbreak appears contained.

“The majority of this is over,” Surna told City Pulse today. “We are still seeing cases associated with the cluster — like we added, I think, two cases yesterday — but it is mostly done.”

Surna said her department flagged concerns after cases spiked after the Feb. 18 game. Because of how quickly the cases spread, staff asked the State Bureau of Laboratories to conduct variant testing to determine whether the more infectious B.1.1.7 variant could be at play. The variant is believed to be 50% more infectious than the original virus. 

A district spokesman confirmed there were a total of 24 cases of adults or students from the high school and middle school, which were all presumed to have had the variant. The remaining 23 cases were identified as close contacts of those infected, like household family members. 

The district benched the basketball team and canceled five games as a result of the outbreak. It also asked those who have been close contacts to isolate at home and avoid school property. A combination of the voluntary quarantines and contact tracing helped limit the impact of the outbreak, which officials said could have been much worse without public health intervention.

Okemos High School also quarantined its basketball team, said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. Out of privacy concerns, she did not not detail how many cases were identified there, only noting that it was “very few.” 

Grand Ledge High School also played Jackson High School before the quarantine went into effect. Jackson County Public Health announced last week it had identified one case of B.1.1.7 variant in the county. Officials did not respond to questions.

The B.1.1.7 variant was first identified late last year in the United Kingdom and led to a countrywide lockdown this year. State health officials estimate that the variant accounts for 15% of cases nationwide. In Michigan, 725 cases of the variant have been identified in 31 counties. About 58% percent of those statewide cases were in the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Officials also said approved vaccinations are currently effective against the B.1.1.7 variant.

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