1st Covid variant case found in Brighton gym member, officials say it is 50 % more transmissable

Livingston County confirmed its first variant case and is asking anyone who has been to a Brighton-area gym the last month to isolate and get tested.

James Gray is a martial arts gym owner who believes the response to the coronavirus pandemic has been blown out of proportion. 

"What are we doing? We are losing our mind over something that's always been there," he said. "Coronavirus has been around since we were born."

FOX 2 caught up with Gray,  who owns the Michigan Institute of Athletics in Brighton after the Livingston County Health Department confirmed 14 gym members now have COVID-19. This includes the county's first case of the UK variant. 

"We do find it is about 50% more transmissible than other known variants that we are aware of right now," said Emma Harmon, epidemiologist. "It's much more easily spread from person to person so it could result in a high number of COVID-19 cases."

It is important to note the health department does not believe the virus is spreading at the gym. 

After contact tracing, the health department determined the members got the virus somewhere else and did not interact with each other. 

"Potentially these individuals could've had exposures say, they went to a birthday party or something like that, and people weren't wearing masks," Harmon said. 

Meanwhile the health department and Gray say they're working together. 

"Not a single person that comes into this academy is trying to harm the people in their lives," Gray said. "We care about our loved ones, we are family members, we are brothers and sons, fathers and sisters and daughters we are people of a community trying to work together to exercise to take care of ourselves."

"There is always a risk we could see those increase in cases again leading to more hospitalizations and deaths," Harmon said. 

FOX 2: "Have you thought about changing any protocols or policies?"

"What does the variant matter? Generally speaking, viruses aren't designed to kill their host, right? Viruses throughout history have always changed," he said. 

Gray says the past year they have asked gym members to monitor for symptoms and stay home if they are sick. He says they have also tripled cleaning protocols. But he added they aren't taking temperatures or enforcing the state's mask mandate. 

"It's not really practical, I'm on top of you breathing on you, sweating on you, you are trying to strangle me, I'm trying to strangle you. It's very much as close as you can be to somebody without being intimate. You can't put a mask into that situation honestly."

While the last year has come with countless changes including the virus itself, some opinions remain the same. 

FOX 2: "So your perspective has not changed after hearing about these 14 external cases that haven't hit close to home for you at all?"

"I know tons of people that have had COVID-19," Gray said. "And I haven't seen the extreme things."