COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – It’s a new year and health experts said a newer version of the COVID-19 omicron variant is taking hold in the United States.

With infections and hospitalizations growing after the holidays, health experts are warning against complacency with the new variant.

This year will be the first start to a new year since 2020 that the pandemic isn’t front and center, but as 2023 begins, health experts said that in the new year, it’s still the old approach that’s the best defense against COVID-19.

In its latest report, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the new subvariant, identified as XBB.1.5, makes up about 40 percent of coronavirus infections nationwide.

“What we know about XBB.1.5, it is still an omicron subvariant,” said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, infectious disease expert with OhioHealth. “We have not switched to the Pi variant. We know that XBB.1.5 so far evades immunity from previous vaccines and infections.”

Like other up and coming variants, experts said XBB.1.5 is more transmissible.

“And unlike other previous variants, we don’t have monoclonal antibodies to neutralize XBB.1.5, so that’s actually an important tool for some people who can’t take Paxlovid,” Gastaldo said.

In addition to drugs like Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, Gastaldo said that heading into 2023, the new bivalent booster is the best way to protect against evolving variants.

“Most concerning for me is under 40% of those 65-and-older who are eligible to receive the booster have received it,” he said.

Gastaldo said the focus in 2023 needs to continue to be how to live with COVID-19 against how we get rid of it.