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Michigan health experts anticipate COVID-19 surge with arrival of new variant

Photo of a COVID-19 molecule

COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise across the state.

That's as mid-Michigan health officials prepare for an updated vaccine against the virus that's expected to launch this fall.

Currently, there are more than 250 people in Michigan hospitalized for symptoms related to the coronavirus. 12 of those patients are receiving care at Lansing's Sparrow Hospital.

Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Paul Entler says the increase in cases is likely a result of the decreasing effectiveness of previous forms of the COVID vaccine.

"The ability of innate immunity and vaccinations has really prevented significant illness that we typically would have seen early on in the pandemic. We're just not seeing that right now," he said.

A case of a new COVID variant known as BA.2.86 was identified earlier this month in Washtenaw County. Health officials at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have said the individual with the variant exhibited mild COVID symptoms.

Entler says that despite the new variant, he isn't recommending schools put masking policies back in place. Instead, he says it's important to maintain good handwashing hygiene and stay up to date on vaccines.

"If you're going to cough, cover your mouth with your arm, and really, just those kinds of things will help prevent the spread of viruses that we normally see. We know that as we come into the fall and into the winter," he added.

According to recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 20% of Michiganders are up to date with their COVID vaccines.

Entler says an updated COVID vaccine is expected to be widely available sometime in September.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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