Michigan identifies first case of Brazilian COVID variant as virus surges statewide 

Michigan has identified its first case of the P.1 coronavirus variant that was first discovered in Brazil, health officials announced Thursday.

The confirmation of yet another variant in the state underscores the urgency to vaccinate as many Michiganders as quickly as possible, as the state is in the middle of the country’s biggest surge of new infections.

The variant was found in a woman in Bay County. The case was diagnosed in early March and she has recovered, state officials said.

Infections climbing: Michigan is in rough shape. The state is averaging nearly 57 new cases for every 100,000 people. The positivity rate hit 12 percent on Thursday, and continues to climb. Hospitalizations are also rising. While the most vulnerable age groups have been vaccinated, there are a lot of people who have not been, but still act as if the pandemic is over.

Lifting restrictions: The state still has a mask mandate, but people may not necessarily be following it. Travel is increasing, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has allowed indoor dining up to 50 percent capacity. According to experts, many of the infections in Michigan have been driven by outbreaks linked to large social gatherings, so the increase in more contagious variants gives people very little room for error.