What COVID-19 variants are going around in November 2023?

Published November 28, 2023


picture of a couple looking online

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.

Aggregate COVID-19 case and death data reporting has been discontinued with the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) on May 11, 2023.

There are currently more than 10,321 patients hospitalized in the United States per week, with 16% of those being ICU patients. The most recent data on the test positivity rate is from the week ending November 18, which was 8.2%. When test positivity is above 5%, transmission is considered uncontrolled.

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.

What COVID-19 variant are we on?

Currently, the dominant variant nationwide is HV.1, with 29% of cases, followed by EG.5, with 21.7% of cases, and FL.1.5.1, with 9.3% of cases. "The original omicron variant is gone now," says Dr. Rupp. "Currently subvariants of omicron are circulating, including EG.5, XBB.1.16.6, and XBB.1.16.11."

Chart showing that the top COVID variants circulating in the United States during the week ending November 25 are HV.1, EG.5, and BA.2.86.

COVID-19 in Nebraska

As of August 15, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has removed COVID-19 wastewater data from its website.

In the week ending November 18, 2023, there were 7,620 COVID-19 tests performed in Nebraska, with 1,245 positive results. This is a 16.3% positivity rate, up 1.3% from the week prior.

A chart showing the COVID test positivity rate at 16.3% in the week ending November 18, 2023.

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 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 the bivalent booster, try to avoid high-risk settings. If you can't, then I think you should wear a mask."

Get your COVID vaccine

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months and older get updated COVID-19 vaccines this fall. Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death.

Our pharmacies offer COVID-19 vaccines on a walk-in basis. View which vaccines are available at each location.