How states can respond to the coronavirus

March 11, 2020
We’re staying on top of all the coronavirus news, including a Texas House of Representatives hearing yesterday, where we testified on government and business preparedness and response. We’re also reading a food innovation thought leader’s new blog on why our brains…

We’re staying on top of all the coronavirus news, including a Texas House of Representatives hearing yesterday, where we testified on government and business preparedness and response. We’re also reading a food innovation thought leader’s new blog on why our brains make certain food choices—and how we can use that knowledge to combat myths about food biotech. Here are around 870 words, or 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

How states can respond to the coronavirus

It's not just up to the federal government; states need to respond to COVID-19, too. Yesterday, BIO testified before the Texas state legislature about coronavirus preparedness and how the state’s government and employers can ensure the safety of all Texans.

The hearing: The Texas House of Representatives Public Health Committee held a public hearing on March 10 on the state’s preparedness on the coronavirus. 

Witnesses included public health, emergency response, and education leaders at the state and city level, health care and biomedical experts, hospitals and transportation planners… 

And BIO, too—specifically, Amy Walker, BIO’s Senior Manager of Infectious Disease Policy, who spoke about the status of R&D for COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, and how the public and private sectors can help. 

The industry has accelerated research to develop products that are both “effective and safe”—thanks in part to the public-private partnership between government and industry. 

And Texas has “a vital role in the research, testing, and manufacturing of these products,” she said. “A number of the biotechnology companies answering the call on COVID-19 have research and manufacturing facilities in the state. Texas’ academic institutions have laid the foundation for later stage work in partnership with biotechnology companies.”

But: “A robust R&D environment and ample funding is needed to bolster our current and future pandemic preparedness.” 

Amy urged Texas officials to seek information from “trusted sources like the CDC and WHO” and companies to “take the proper steps to ensure the safety of their employees.”  

Where to start? Check out BIO’s two information hubs:

Read more about the hearing in NPR Austin.


More Health Care News: 

POLITICO Pro [Subscription]: CMS set to announce Medicare insulin plan
This week, the Trump administration is expected announce the plan, which an official confirmed would make costs “go down for seniors who need insulin” but up for those who “are part of participating plans and are not insulin users.”

STAT: Drug companies, Canadians, pharmacists, and more blast Trump’s drug importation plan
“The Trump administration is being flooded with opposition to its plan for allowing states to import cheaper drugs from Canada.”


Food for thought

Our food has never been safer or more abundant—so why do we fear it? Food innovation thought leader Jack Bobo discusses in a must-read blog post.

Despite the safety of modern food, people fear it, with a survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) finding consumers consider making healthy food choices harder than doing their taxes, says Jack.

What’s to blame? “Information overload” in the grocery aisles, for one.

Our brains look for shortcuts to help us make decisions when faced with too much information—and phrases like “GMO-free” or “pesticide-free” create cognitive biases, which can influence our decisions and reinforce existing biases, like a preference for “natural” things. 

But a bias against new technology is not only wrong, in the case of GMOs, but can also lead us to choose less-safe products with a “natural” label. For example, Jack says in an interview with GMO Answers, “the demand in recent years for raw milk belies the real danger associated with this product. By understanding these tendencies, we can better engage with consumers to help them focus on real versus perceived risks.”

What’s BIO got to do with it? We’re working to dispel myths about food innovations, like gene editing, to ensure policymakers and consumers know these products are safe, healthy, AND can help solve food-related challenges related to climate change and population growth. By understanding how the mind works, we can help consumers better understand new technology.

Where can I read more? Jack launched a blog on his website, Futurity: Where Food Meets Future, where he will publish a series of articles about the future of food and how our brains make decisions about what to eat.


More Agriculture & Environment News: 

Progressive Farmer: USDA details African swine fever plans
“The Agriculture Department would stop the movement of all swine for 72 hours if there is a detection of the African swine fever (ASF) in the United States, Agriculture Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach announced Friday.” 

South China Morning Post: China’s inflation remained high in February, pork prices jumped 135%
“The coronavirus outbreak is putting downward pressure on inflation. While supply chain disruptions have kept food prices high, weaker demand has weighed on the price of other goods and services,” said one economist.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Wednesday: Meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo, then with bankers on the coronavirus response. The Coronavirus Task Force is scheduled to hold a press briefing at 5:30pm ET. Meanwhile, national polls show Biden with a 10- or 11-point lead over Trump, says Lunchtime Politics

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The House and Senate are in session, with House Democrats “pressing ahead” on an economic package to respond to the coronavirus-related downturn, while Senate Republicans are waiting for Trump, reports POLITICO. On the House side, there are hearings on coronavirus preparedness and response and the federal response to the virus. House Subcommittees will look at the FDA’s FY2021 budget request and markup 13 health-related bills, including a few related to pharmaceuticals, too. The Senate Finance Committee is voting on the nomination of HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Legislation Sarah Arbes.

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