The omicron variant survives longer than most other COVID-19 variants, which may be why it’s more contagious, researchers said.

Driving the news: Two recent studies suggested that the omicron variant of the coronavirus can last twice as long on surfaces such as plastic, paper and skin compared to the original coronavirus strain, according to CNN.

Why it matters: This could be a sign that the omicron variant lasts longer than previous COVID-19 variants, which is why it’s more contagious.

  • Scientists said that the omicron variant has passed the delta variant in terms of case numbers because it could last longer on surfaces, per Reuters.
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Yes, but: Linsey Marr, an environmental engineer and aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech, told CNN that you are more likely to be infected by inhaling the variant, so there’s not an immediate reason to panic.

What she said: “I think that maybe surfaces could be a little more important than they were with the ancestral strain. I still do not think that does not mean that surfaces are dominant, though,” Marr said, per CNN. “I am sure that inhalation of aerosols is still the dominant mode of transmission.”

The bigger picture: Concerns about the omicron variant have risen in recent days as COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb, as I reported for the Deseret News. Europe and Asia have seen a flux of new coronavirus cases, prompting fears of a rise in cases in the United States.

  • “These increases are occurring despite reductions in testing in some countries, which means the cases we’re seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” WHO’s head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told reporters, per NBC News.