By Jon King /

A variant of the COVID-19 virus has been detected in Livingston County.

The Livingston County Health Department reports that it has identified the first case of the COVID-19 variant B117. According to a release, while public exposures are not normally a concern, they have issued an alert in this instance because the B117 variant is more easily transmitted and could lead to more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

As a precaution, the Health Department recommends COVID-19 testing for anyone who attended the following locations:

• Michigan Institute of Athletics Gym on Euler Road in Genoa Township from February 13th to present (including friends and family members who spent time with individuals having visited this location).

• Grappling Industries BJJ & NOGI Round Robin Tournament that occurred on February 13, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

The Michigan Institute of Athletics Gym is owned by James Gray, who made headlines last May when he re-opened the facility in violation of Governor Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. He was also outspoken in promoting the falsehood that COVID-19 was no worse than the seasonal flu. A letter to the gym dated February 23rd from the Health Department stated that "multiple Michigan Institute of Athletics members have tested positive for COVID-19." It then noted that due to the high-contact nature of martial arts, individuals who participated in activities at Michigan Institute of Athletics during the week of February 15th have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and are at an increased risk of developing COVID-19." It then went on to state that the health department had been working with the gym to "provide guidance on infection prevention protocols and risk mitigation strategies." An image of the letter was posted on the gym's Facebook page with a message that asked members, "to be responsible about monitoring themselves and taking the time off if you experience symptoms or are diagnosed with any sickness."

Natasha Radke with the Livingston County Health Department told WHMI that Mr. Gray "has been in regular contact with LCHD, initially with our Environmental Health Director and now with our Epidemiologist to provide information and answer questions for LCHD. This is helping LCHD to determine the extent of the variant spread. Mr. Gray agreed to work through the process on his end by communicating this information to his membership." However, Radke says she wasn't sure to what extent that had been accomplished.

If anyone who attended these locations has symptoms, they recommend that you immediately isolate, undergo testing for COVID-19, and ask anyone who had close contact with you to quarantine for 14 days. LCHD and the Michigan Institute of Athletics are working closely to mitigate further transmission of COVID-19 and identify additional cases.

All residents should be aware of this new variant and limit any possible exposures to COVID-19. This includes not gathering with people outside of your household and limiting more risky behaviors where social distancing and wearing masks cannot be consistently done. Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, has been recently exposed, or who has recently traveled to a place where a new variant is circulating should be tested.

“The possibility of additional spread of the variant is a concern,” says Juan Marquez, MD, MPH, Medical Director at LCHD. “At this point, and with the guidance of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, we are encouraging extra precautions. Seek testing if you have symptoms, have recently been exposed to COVID-19, or have recently traveled to a place where the new variant is circulating. And everyone should make sure they are using all COVID-19 precautions consistently. This includes face masks, social distancing, hand cleaning, avoiding crowds or gatherings, and following isolation and quarantine guidance.”

LCHD is working to increase no-cost COVID-19 testing opportunities in the community for those who may have been exposed. More information will be released at a later date.

A list of current locations that conduct testing is on the LCHD COVID-19 page under the Frequently Asked Questions section (

While cases have seen a recent decline in the county, the health department says the rate of vaccination against COVID-19 also remains low. Residents are strongly encouraged to use all effective prevention strategies to continue taking safe steps against the prevention of COVID-19. These include;

• Wear a face mask around others
• Keep at least 6 feet apart from others
• Clean hands frequently
• Avoid crowded areas or gatherings
• Ventilate indoor spaces if around others
• Seek testing if ill, exposed, or after travel
• Follow isolation or quarantine guidance if ill, exposed, or waiting on test results
• Get vaccinated when vaccine becomes available to you

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), as of Sunday, March 7th, there were 437 cases of the B117 variant confirmed in Michigan. That was second highest in the nation behind only Florida, which reported 642 cases.