SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is constantly changing and accumulating mutations in its genetic code over time. New variants of SARS-CoV-2 are expected to continue to emerge. Some variants will emerge and disappear, while others will emerge and continue to spread and may replace previous variants.
To identify and track SARS-CoV-2 variants, CDC uses genomic surveillance. CDC's national genomic surveillance system collects SARS-CoV-2 specimens for sequencing through the National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance (NS3) program, as well as SARS-CoV-2 sequences generated by commercial or academic laboratories contracted by CDC and state or local public health laboratories. Virus genetic sequences are analyzed and classified as a particular variant. The proportion of variants in a population are calculated nationally, by HHS region, and by jurisdiction. The thousands of sequences analyzed every week through CDC’s national genomic sequencing and bioinformatics efforts fuel the comprehensive and population-based U.S. surveillance system established to identify and monitor the spread of variants.
Rapid virus genomic sequencing data combined with phenotypic data are further used to determine whether COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines authorized or approved for use in the United States will work against emerging variants.
Nowcast is a model that estimates more recent proportions of circulating variants and enables timely public health action. CDC is providing weekly Nowcast estimates which will be updated every week on Friday.
COVID Data Tracker here>