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University of Michigan halts athletic events after new COVID-19 strain detected

University of Michigan halts athletic events after new COVID-19 strain detected
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The University of Michigan is halting activities including athletic practices, training sessions and games after the state's health department detected a new strain of COVID-19 thought to have originated in the U.K.

The school's athletics director, Warde Manuel, said pointed to "unknowns" about the new strain of COVID-19 in announcing the decision.

"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," said Manuel in a statement.

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Michigan health officials stressed that there is still no evidence that the new U.K. variant, known as B.1.1.7, was more deadly or severe in other ways than the original strain of COVID-19, which was first reported in Wuhan, China.

“The new variant is present in Michigan and we are at risk of seeing more spread of COVID-19. Everyone should do their part to end this pandemic. Get tested if you have been exposed, have symptoms, or have recently traveled to an area with a new variant spreading," said the state's chief medical executive, Joneigh Khaldun, in a separate press release.

The university's president, meanwhile, indicated that three cases of the new strain had been identified on campus, adding that more would likely be discovered in the coming weeks.

"It remains of utmost importance to protect one another by following public health best practices, which include: avoiding large social gatherings, wearing a face covering on campus and when around anyone outside your immediate household, practicing social distancing, watching for symptoms, and isolating and seeking medical care immediately if symptoms develop," said Mark Schlissel in a statement.