CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A new Covid variant spreads across North Carolina as the new year begins.

“We anticipated this would be the case, and we’re not surprised by it,” said Dr. David Priest with Novant Health.

People traveling back to the area after visiting family for the holidays and taking fewer precautions because, over the last two years, they have contracted Covid or received the vaccine.

“Everyone in my household has had it, and we are all fully vaccinated,” said Laura Hamm as she walked around Freedom Park.

“Unless everybody gets vaccinated, and even if they are vaccinated, they are still going to get it,” added Sylvia Burns, another walker at the park. “Yes, I feel like it will always be around.”

Novant Health professionals say the XBB 1.5 variant is becoming the dominant Covid variant representing 28% of cases in the state. The symptoms are less severe than other variants, and that makes it difficult to diagnose patients.

“There will be times when people will say it’s my allergies or I just have a cold, and it’s Covid, and they don’t realize it because it is so mild,” Priest said. “It’s hard to totally avoid those situations.”

Currently, 260 people have been diagnosed with Covid in the Novant Health system. That’s more than 100 people from December but less than the 760 people a year ago. Doctors say as more variants of Omicron develop, they are not as strong but highly contagious.

“We select out for viruses that spread widely, make a lot of people sick but don’t necessarily give them severe disease or death,” said Priest. “So that is just the natural progression of how these viruses work, moving towards hopefully what is an endemic phase like we have influenza.”

Also, officials closed Boone’s town hall on Tuesday because of Covid.