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 100,000 cases reported in the United States per day, with test positivity of 17%. When test positivity is above 5%, transmission is considered uncontrolled. There are more than 300 deaths per day, and hospitalizations have increased 13% over the last two weeks.
Dr. Rupp says that locally, we continue to trend up in cases and hospitalizations. In Douglas County, we continue to see increases in cases. The risk status for Douglas county was recently elevated into the "Medium Risk" category reflecting increased cases and higher numbers of hospital admissions. As of this writing, 118 people are hospitalized in the county.
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.4, BA.5 and BA.2.12.1."
Currently, BA.5 (dark green) is the dominant COVID-19 variant nationwide, followed by BA.2.12.1 (red). Source: CDC Variant Proportions on July 7, 2022.
New COVID-19 variants BA.4 and BA.5 increasing
Two newer omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, are both increasing in our community.
"These variants ebb and flow across the country. Now it's our turn to be dealing with BA.4 and BA.5 as the situation evolves. We should anticipate the emergence of additional novel variants," Dr. Rupp says.
New COVID-19 variants displace older ones. In the last two weeks, Nebraska has seen an increase in omicron subvariants BA.5 (brown) and BA.2 (dark orange). Source: DHHS Nebraska on July 7, 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."
Vaccine updates for Novavax and kids under 5
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 met June 7 and advised that the Novavax vaccine be approved for emergency use authorization in the United States. 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.
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.
Everyone 5 years and up should get a COVID-19 booster, if eligible. Schedule your booster here.