Breaking news about the emerging omicron variant of the coronavirus was an unwelcome dark cloud over my Thanksgiving weekend. When officials suggested it would be several weeks before it was clear just how bad the omicron news really was, it got our staff wondering what kind of science would be going on in the interim.

Luckily, Peter Kasson, a virologist and biophysicist at the University of Virginia, stepped up to explain what researchers are doing in laboratories right now to figure out how contagious and dangerous omicron is and whether current vaccines are up to the fight. He writes that it’s “a combination of public health data and understanding from the lab” that fills out the picture of any new coronavirus variant.

Also today:

Maggie Villiger

Senior Science + Technology Editor

A researcher works with COVID-19 samples from patients. Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

Figuring out omicron – here’s what scientists are doing right now to understand the new coronavirus variant

Peter Kasson, University of Virginia

Careful lab work will complement public health data as researchers worldwide focus on omicron, asking questions about contagiousness, severity of disease and whether vaccines hold up against it.

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