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New COVID-19 variant becomes dominant strain in U.S.


LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -A new variant of COVID-19 has become the dominant strain in the U.S. and is rising in the Midwest. The variant is called XBB.1.5, and the CDC estimates that last week it accounted for nearly 50% of all COVID-19 cases across the U.S.

Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan with CHI Health expects this new omicron strain will be circulating throughout Nebraska for the next four to six weeks.

“This variant also seems more infectious,” Dr. Vivekanandan said. “But thankfully, as far as hospitalizations, and severe illnesses, are still staying steady.”

Recent data from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services shows about a 10% positivity rate. Dr. Vivekanandan said the symptoms from this variant include fevers, chills, runny noses, cough or shortness of breath and fatigue, similar to other variants.

The latest numbers from Bryan Health show they’re caring for 15 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday. They said their COVID patients usually number between 15 to 30.

As far as hospital capacity, they’re hovering between 550 to 580 patients per day. Bryan Health said in the last year, their emergency department cared for over 96,000 patients, which is an all-time high.

Dr. Vivekanandan said COVID, these variant evolutions, are likely here to stay, but there is hope in fighting off surges of new cases.

“We have the tools, even if the virus is mutating. The vaccines that we have are effective in preventing infection in most individuals and preventing severe infection,” Dr. Vivekanandan said.

She said data shows booster rates are low, so increasing the level of vaccinations is the best bet in protecting against infection.

“We know what to do with Nebraska, we have done a great job, we could continue to do a great job, I just think there’s really a big opportunity to get the vaccine and the bivalent vaccine that is available for COVID-19,” Dr. Vivekanandan said.

Dr. Vivekanandan said RSV and flu numbers are both dropping in Nebraska, but said those cases are still happening. She said if you feel sick, you should test to determine what type of respiratory illness you may have.

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