What COVID-19 variants are going around in September 2022?

Published September 16, 2022

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Get the latest COVID-19 news from infectious diseases expert Mark Rupp, MD, including COVID-19 case rates, types of variants circulating and vaccine updates.

Dr. Rupp says our national COVID-19 case rate is at an "elevated plateau." Since many are using home tests that are not reported through public health or are not testing at all, the official case counts underestimate the actual prevalence of COVID-19.

There are currently more than 64,000 cases reported in the United States per day, with test positivity of 12%. When test positivity is above 5%, transmission is considered uncontrolled. There are more than 400 deaths per day, and hospitalizations have decreased 11% over the last two weeks. 

What COVID-19 variant are we on?

Currently, the dominant variant nationwide is BA.5. "The original omicron variant is gone now," says Dr. Rupp. "Currently subvariants of omicron are circulating, including BA.5 and BA.4.6." 
 

COVID-19 variant proportions chart, showing BA.5 as the dominant variant

Currently, BA.5 (dark green) is the dominant COVID-19 variant nationwide, followed by BA.4.6. Source: CDC Variant Proportions on September 16, 2022. 

 

BA.5 variant dominating in Nebraska

BA.5 is also the dominant variant in Nebraska, making up 88% of cases. BA.4.6 is the next highest variant, with 5% of Nebraska cases.

Chart showing COVID-19 variants in Nebraska, where BA.5 is the most prevalent variant.

New COVID-19 variants displace older ones. In the last two weeks, Nebraska has seen an increase in omicron subvariants BA.5 (brown). Source: DHHS Nebraska on September 10, 2022. 

 

Which COVID-19 variant do I have? And do COVID-19 tests tell you the variant?

When you receive a COVID-19 test, you won't find out which variant caused your infection. That's because COVID-19 tests only detect the presence of the virus – they don't determine the variant.

Genomic sequencing looks at the genetic code of the virus to determine which variant caused the infection.

Nebraska DHHS sequences test samples after a positive test is identified and reports the total percentage of each variant every two weeks. See the latest genomic surveillance report for Nebraska. Sequencing results are used by public health experts to understand variant trends in the community.

Will COVID-19 variants affect the vaccine?

The best way to prevent new variants is to slow the spread of the virus. The great news is that these proven public health strategies continue to work against new variants as well.

  • Get a booster if you're eligible
  • Get vaccinated
  • Choose outdoor activities over indoor activities whenever possible
  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid close contact with others
  • Wear a mask in public places
  • Stay home if you're sick or have symptoms of COVID-19

"We have a lot of disease out there. People should continue to be careful," Dr. Rupp says. "Get your booster, try to avoid high-risk settings. If you can't, then I think you should wear a mask."

BA.4/BA.5 boosters, Novavax and vaccines for kids under 5

Everyone 12 years and up should get an updated COVID-19 booster, if eligible. These updated bivalent boosters offer protection against the latest omicron variants of BA.4 and BA.5, plus the original COVID-19 strain.

COVID-19 vaccines are now available for kids under 5. Now everyone ages 6 months and older can be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the Novavax vaccine July 19. As it uses a more traditional approach to vaccination and vaccine production than the mRNA vaccines already available, it may encourage some people who have not yet been vaccinated to accept vaccine. 

Novavax vaccines are available at the following Nebraska Medicine pharmacies:

As a community and nation, vaccination and booster dose rates need to increase. Evidence shows those vaccinated and boosted continue to be protected against severe disease, hospitalization, and death – even with the latest variants. Unfortunately, the United States is behind compared to other developed countries with only about 30% of those who are eligible to have received a booster actually getting the shot.