Viruses change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.
COVID-19 is caused by a virus and all viruses mutate over time. It is like playing a game of telephone where the message ends up being different each time the message passes to the next person. Some mutations do nothing. Some mutations make the virus better at adapting, making it easier to spread from person to person. Sometimes they change how sick people become if they are infected with the virus. It is expected that new variants will develop and be detected.
Some, but not all positive test samples, are sequenced to determine what variant they are.
Throughout the pandemic, a portion of samples submitted to the lab have been genome sequenced to determine what variant of the virus they contain. It is this process that helps us identify when a new variant is becoming common. Sequencing takes time so you likely will not know what variant you have when your test result comes back or even if your sample is being sequenced.
As new variants emerge in other parts of the world, people who test positive for COVID-19 are interviewed by public health and asked about recent travel history. Those who traveled to areas with new variants may have their samples sequenced to see if they contracted the new variant.
Understanding the spread and behavior of variants is valuable information that can help determine effective ways to prevent and treat the virus. For the latest information on variants see