Michigan Pauses Athletics as COVID Variant Confirmed

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The University of Michigan announced Saturday that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) had made a decision to pause all Wolverine athletics activities — including games and practices for all sports — for a period of two weeks on Saturday after a new variant of coronavirus was identified among “several individuals” linked to the athletic department.

The variant, known as SAR-CoV-2 B.1.1.7, is thought to be as much as 50 percent more transferable than the standard form of the virus, which could potentially lead to a fast-spreading outbreak. In a release announcing the news, the school said MDHHS approved a more aggressive strategy in responding to the more contagious strain. 

All athletics facilities were shut down, and student-athletes, coaches and staff were instructed to self-isolate and quarantine until Feb. 7. 

"Canceling competitions is never something we want to do, but with so many unknowns about this variant of COVID-19, we must do everything we can to minimize the spread among student-athletes, coaches, staff, and to the student-athletes at other schools," athletic director Warde Manuel said in a release announcing the news.

According to mlive.com, three individuals in the athletic department tested positive for SAR-CoV-2 B.1.1.7. Health experts told mlive that while mutations aren’t unexpected and warned people not to panic, a more contagious form of the virus could potentially lead to higher rates of infection and more cases, which in turn could tax already overburdened healthcare infrastructure.

Experts believe that mitigation strategies that have been in place throughout the pandemic would be effective in slowing the spread of the variant, and that vaccines would remain effective against it despite the mutation.

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