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7 Things You Shouldn't Touch Due to Omicron

Your fingers carry the disease to your face. Here's how to make sure that never happens.

Although contracting COVID by touching a surface containing the virus "is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads," the CDC says, so-called "fomite transmission" is still possible. Another reason caution is warranted: A new study found that Omicron survives longer on certain surfaces than five previous variants of COVID. These are seven things you shouldn't touch if you want to avoid catching Omicron. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID


Plastic Surfaces in Public

A person's hand holding onto a handle on a bus.

In the study, Japanese researchers observed how long the Omicron variant lasted on samples of plastic and skin. They found Omicron survived on plastic for an average of 193.5 hours—slightly more than eight days—while the original COVID strain lasted 56 hours, Alpha lasted 191.3 hours, Beta lasted 156.6 hours, Gamma 59.3 hours, and Delta 114 hours. The good news: All variants were inactivated by being exposed to alcohol for 15 seconds. 


Other People's Hands

people shaking hands at office

At the beginning of the pandemic, health experts urged substituting a wave or an elbow bump for the standard handshake. The new study suggests that may be a good idea (and it's definitely not time to forgo regular hand washing or carrying hand sanitizer). Researchers found that Omicron lasted an average of 21.1 hours on skin, compared to  8.6 hours for the original version, 19.6 hours for Alpha, 19.1 hours for Beta, 11 hours for Gamma, and 16.8 hours for Delta.

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Elevator Buttons

Pressing elevator button

Often made of plastic, elevator buttons are constantly touched by many different people. Press these germ magnets with a knuckle or the side of your hand. That lowers the chances you'll transfer any germs, including the COVID virus, to your face.

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Restaurant Menus

woman pointing and admiring item on menu

Many restaurants have converted to digital menus for sitdown dining, which is a great idea: Hard copies are often plastic-covered and are rarely cleaned. If your favorite restaurant is still going analog, don't put a menu on your plate or silverware. After you've ordered, don't touch your face or start your meal without washing your hands for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer.

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Shopping Baskets or Carts

Men's hand holding an empty basket in the supermarket

Shopping cart and basket handles were germ hotspots even before COVID—one pre-pandemic study found that most shopping cart handles contained bacteria that can cause stomach flu-style symptoms. To stay healthy, wipe them down with an antibacterial wipe or use hand sanitizer when your shopping trip's done.

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Public Pens


Usually plastic and frequently touched by huge numbers of people all day long, the public pens at banks and stores are major virus magnets. It's a good idea to bring your own pen along whenever you might need to use one—to the bank, doctor's office, or on errands. 


Checkout Screens or ATM Buttons

Low angle view of African American businesswoman inserting credit card and withdrawing cash at ATM while wearing protective mask on her face.

Checkout screens at grocery stores and ATM keypads are notoriously germy. (Studies have found that ATM buttons can be up to nine times germier than a public toilet.) Bring a pen with you and use the non-writing end to press keys and give your signature, or attach a mini-stylus to your keychain that you can use to stay contact-free.


How to Stay Safe Out There

Doctor had just vaccinated a young female patient in the hospital.

Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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