Health Editor’s Note: This is the story: By the end of February the world knew it had something horrible happening. That horrible was novel coronavirus 2019, later to be renamed COVID-19.
As early as January 30, 2020, there were a total of 9,976 cases reported in 21 countries. The first confirmed case in the U.S. was reported on January 20. Biogen held its annual leadership meeting for two days at the end of February and spread coronavirus to countries in Europe who had not yet experienced this virus.
In the U.S. Biogen executives were the first two cases in Indiana and the first known case in Tennessee and six of the earliest cases in North Carolina.
A meeting that should have been cancelled, held on Zoom, Skype, etc. helped to spread coronavirus. Story of the meeting that should have not been ….Carol
Pharma’s Super Spreaders
by Enterprise & Investigative Writer
The New York Times detailed how employees of the drugmaker Biogen became “super spreaders” of the coronavirus.
The company, based in Boston, held its annual leadership meeting over two days at the end of February, with several executives from European nations not yet hammered by the virus attending. Attendees then dispersed across the world, likely bringing the virus back to Europe, Tennessee, New Jersey, and other places — “outstripping the ability of local public health officials to trace the spread.”
Biogen held its retreat even after some companies canceled their international events because of the spread of the virus. Some executives fell ill, prompting the company to notify others via email the following Monday. That day, Biogen’s four top executives met with investors at a healthcare conference run by the investment firm Cowen.
After two other executives who had attended the retreat reported testing positive the next day (upon returning to Europe), the company held an all-staff call announcing the news and ordering office-based staff to work from home — but not until a day later, on Thursday.
Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos told the Times that the company “made the best decisions it could with the information available at the time. We would never have knowingly put anyone at risk.”
The official count of 99 employees and their contacts who were sickened pertains to Massachusetts alone. Biogen executives accounted for the first two cases in Indiana and the first known case in Tennessee. They also comprised six of the earliest cases in North Carolina.
The two Biogen executives who fell ill with coronavirus have recovered, and the company has since donated $10 million to “expand access to testing and to provide emergency food and protective gear for hospital workers.”