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Biogen Conference

From a Biogen conference to a homeless shelter: Researchers track coronavirus infections from ‘superspreader’ events – USA TODAY

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Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks to how personal responsibility and social distancing is the key to ending the spread of the coronavirus.

USA TODAY

BOSTON – New genetic data helps tell the story of how COVID-19 arrived in Massachusetts, exploded across a hotel conference center, wormed its way into a nursing home, repeatedly struck a homeless shelter and contributed to the virus’s march around the globe.

Although parts of the story have already been told and others remain elusive, genetic data from many of the COVID-19 infections in the Boston area in March and April helps fill some gaps.

The new research tracks several “super-spreading events” that may help public officials decide which activities are safe and which are dangerous, said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who helped lead the study, which was posted online Tuesday but has not yet undergone scientific peer review. 

One of the super-spreading events occurred in late February at a conference of the biotech company Biogen, which specializes in treating neurological diseases. 

About 200 people attended the company’s leadership meeting. More than 90 infections were traced to it in Massachusetts, and potentially as many as 20,000 worldwide, Lemieux said.

The attendees shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and sat together in the same room all day for two days, said Barry Bloom, an immunologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“With unknown amounts of ventilation,” added William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the same school, who was an author on the study. Both participated in a phone call with media Tuesday. 

“The fact that this can happen is something we really need to take into account in the way that we choose to reopen society,” said Lemieux, a medical resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and a postdoctoral researcher at the Broad Institute, a genetics research center connected to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Large, indoor events are probably not a good idea while most of the population remains vulnerable to infection, he said.

“I don’t think the message is, ‘We need indefinite lockdowns, everything has to be out-of-doors forever,'” he said. In some cases, risks can be reduced with mask-wearing, social distancing, testing and improved ventilation. But the study indicates the incredible toll that super-spreading events can carry, and it offers some suggestions on how to limit the consequences of such events.

Coronavirus arrived by car and plane

The virus that causes COVID-19 arrived in the Boston area more than 80 separate ways.

One person brought it from Wuhan, China, in late January, the data suggests, but didn’t pass it to anyone else. A few more infected people arrived from Europe in early March, but again, didn’t seem to pass it on.

As spring began, dozens more carried it with them from Europe. Others brought it up from New York, a four-hour drive to the south. By April, most of the cases were locally transmitted, rather than imported, the research found.

As of Tuesday, 8,961 people in Massachusetts had died of COVID-19 and 102,205 had recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The researchers sequenced and analyzed the genes of the viruses in 772 of the cases by Aug. 1, including all the confirmed cases from early March and others that resulted from two super-spreading events.

By looking at small genetic changes that occur when the virus reproduces and is transmitted from person to person, researchers can track its movement. 

Super-spreading conference

The origins of the infections that hit the Biogen conference aren’t clear, even after  examining the genetics of 28 of the more than 90 infections directly tied to it, Lemieux said. The paper doesn’t identify the conference, but the dates and the number of infections tied to it match that of Biogen’s.

It’s possible that attendees brought it from Europe or elsewhere in the U.S. The employees who attended from the Boston area could have brought it into the Marriott Long Wharf, with its stunning views of Boston Harbor.

On Feb. 26, the day the conference started, there were only 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. Companies were just beginning to cancel in-person conferences.  

People tied to the conference appear to have spread the virus to Virginia, North Carolina and Texas, and to other countries including Australia, Sweden and Slovakia.

Lemieux said it’s impossible to come up with a perfect count from the data he and his colleagues examined. But, he said, “it is clear from many angles – whether looking at the Massachusetts data, state-level data for the United States, or global data – that the scale of this event is measured in tens of thousands of cases.”

Biogen had the misfortune to be the conference where super-spreading occurred, but it could have happened at any meeting, Lemieux said. People simply didn’t know back then how contagious the virus was.

“There’s nothing special about this particular conference except the bad luck of clearly having at least one infected person indoors in a set of circumstances that led to onward transmission,” he said. “The conference was important, but COVID-19 was coming with or without it.”

In April, Biogen formed a consortium with Massachusetts General and the Broad to connect its employees who contracted COVID-19 to create a biobank of research samples. 

“We never would have knowingly put anyone at risk,” Anna Robinson, a spokeswoman for Biogen, said in a statement. “When we learned a number of our colleagues were ill, we did not know the cause was COVID-19, but we immediately notified public health authorities and took steps to limit the spread.”

Hitting the vulnerable

People living or working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities accounted for 22% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases through Aug. 1 and 64% of the 8,433 reported COVID-19-related deaths in Massachusetts to that date.

One nursing facility tested residents because it planned to relocate them to make room for COVID-19 patients released from a hospital. Administrators, Lemieux said, were shocked to learn that about 80 residents and workers were already infected, with 90% linked to a single introduction in early April.

It’s not clear how so many people came to be infected within a few weeks or even less, he said, but “we consider it a super-spreading event.”

By contrast, at a shelter run by Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, the virus entered at least seven times, the research shows, including four that led to clusters of 20 or more infections each.

About half of those infections had the same genetic errors as the virus that spread from the Biogen conference, revealing a link between Boston’s biotech industry and the region’s homeless population.

“The virus spreads in communities up and down the socioeconomic status in ways we don’t really understand,” said Harvard’s Hanage.

The research notes that super-spreading events can have a profound effect on an outbreak. These events are somehow different than typical routes of transmission, though more study will be needed to better understand them, Hanage said. 

People who are super-spreaders may be fundamentally different. Or these cases could be a matter of opportunity, where someone who is particularly infectious ends up in a situation where they can pass the virus to many others. In South Korea, one man spread COVID-19 at five bars he visited in one evening, sparking a major outbreak. 

“Hopefully, I have to say, super-spreading events are going to remain rare,” Hanage said, “because we are hopefully not going to give the virus any opportunities to spread” like that.

Contact Karen Weintraub at kweintraub@usatoday.com

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2020/08/26/how-superspreader-events-biogen-conference-incubated-coronavirus-research/3437458001/

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Conference postpones all sport competitions through end of calendar year | Pac-12 – Pac-12.com

SAN FRANCISCO – The Pac-12 CEO Group voted unanimously to postpone all sport competitions through the end of the 2020 calendar year.

The decision was made after consultation with athletics directors and with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee who expressed concern with moving forward with contact practice.  The report and updated guidelines of the Committee can be found here: Pac-12 COVID-19 Return to Play Considerations – Aug. 10, 2020 and a full list of Committee members can be found here: Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee. The Conference also announced that when conditions improve, it would consider a return to competition for impacted sports after January 1, 2021.

Student-athletes impacted by the postponement will continue to have their scholarships guaranteed.  Additionally, the Pac-12 Conference strongly encourages that the NCAA grant students who opt out of competition this academic year an additional year of eligibility.  As part of their guaranteed scholarships, they will continue to have university support, including academic advising and tutoring, among other support services.

“All of the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors understand the importance of this decision, and the disappointment it will create for our student-athletes, the coaches, support staff and all of our fans,” said Michael H. Schill, president of the University of Oregon. “Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes. We certainly hope that the Pac-12 will be able to return to competition in the New Year.”

“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.  “Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”

Scott noted that while the Conference’s detailed plan to keep student-athletes safe was working in accordance with the Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee guidelines and state and local government orders, the situation was becoming more challenging: “Unlike professional sports, college sports cannot operate in a bubble,” he said. “Our athletic programs are a part of broader campuses in communities where in many cases the prevalence of COVID-19 is significant.  We will continue to monitor the situation and when conditions change we will be ready to explore all options to play the impacted sports in the new calendar year.”

“We know that this is a difficult day for our student-athletes, and our hearts go out to them and their families,” added Scott.  “We have made clear that all of their scholarships will be guaranteed, and that as a Conference we are strongly encouraging the NCAA to grant them an additional year of eligibility.”

About the Pac-12 Conference

The Conference has a tradition as the “Conference of Champions,” leading the nation in NCAA Championships in 54 of the last 60 years, with 529 NCAA team titles overall. The Conference comprises 12 leading U.S. universities – the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Colorado, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Utah, the University of Washington and Washington State University. For more information on the Conference’s programs, member institutions, and Commissioner Larry Scott, go to Pac-12.com/conference.​

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Fed Press Conference: Chairman Jerome Powell speech live stream – July 29 – FXStreet

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About Jerome Powell (via Federalreserve.gov)

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Information on these pages contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Markets and instruments profiled on this page are for informational purposes only and should not in any way come across as a recommendation to buy or sell in these assets. You should do your own thorough research before making any investment decisions. FXStreet does not in any way guarantee that this information is free from mistakes, errors, or material misstatements. It also does not guarantee that this information is of a timely nature. Investing in Open Markets involves a great deal of risk, including the loss of all or a portion of your investment, as well as emotional distress. All risks, losses and costs associated with investing, including total loss of principal, are your responsibility. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of FXStreet nor its advertisers.

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Conference Press

Fed Press Conference: Chairman Jerome Powell speech live stream – April 29 – FXStreet

Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, will be delivering his remarks on the monetary policy outlook at a press conference following the meeting of the Board of Governors. Powell’s speech today (April 29th, 2020) will start at 18:30 GMT.

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The Fed’s view into the next quarter and through the end of the year will be the paramount interest at Wednesday’s FOMC meeting, FXStreet’s analyst Joseph Trevisani reports.

About Jerome Powell (via Federalreserve.gov)

Jerome H. Powell took office as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on February 5, 2018, for a four-year term. Mr. Powell also serves as Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, the System’s principal monetary policymaking body. Mr. Powell has served as a member of the Board of Governors since taking office on May 25, 2012, to fill an unexpired term. He was reappointed to the Board and sworn in on June 16, 2014, for a term ending January 31, 2028.

Information on these pages contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Markets and instruments profiled on this page are for informational purposes only and should not in any way come across as a recommendation to buy or sell in these assets. You should do your own thorough research before making any investment decisions. FXStreet does not in any way guarantee that this information is free from mistakes, errors, or material misstatements. It also does not guarantee that this information is of a timely nature. Investing in Open Markets involves a great deal of risk, including the loss of all or a portion of your investment, as well as emotional distress. All risks, losses and costs associated with investing, including total loss of principal, are your responsibility. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of FXStreet nor its advertisers.

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