How Regional Biotech Companies Are Operating Under COVID-19 Directives

“Business as usual” may be a saying of the past after the fight against this global COVID-19 pandemic is over.  The reality is that right now companies are just trying to respond as best they can to continue their operations and provide for their employees under the safest plans possible.

Human Resources professionals are on the front line of this battle.

The HR Bioscience Alliance(HRBA) surveyed its members to gauge the various continuity of operations (COOP) plans they were putting in place for their companies.  As of this publication, this is how they are responding to help fight the pandemic.

This data was collected prior to March 20, 2020 and may have changed since then.

This pandemic is systematically changing the fate of many industries and millions of workers across the US who are seeing a devastating number of closures and losses.  However, the biohealth field is not expected to see such a negative impact, and some may even be hiring more because of the COVID-19 health crisis.  

It’s in times such as these that our nation and the world relies on the biotech industry to continue delivering lifesaving diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines for these global health threats. Regionally, there are dozens of companies that are contributing to the fight against COVID-19. Companies such as Qiagen, BD, Thermo Fisher, and Johns Hopkins are all producing new diagnostic tools for detecting the virus and Emergent BioSolutions, Novavax and Altimmune are among the companies rapidly developing new vaccines against the virus.

These companies and many others are working vigilantly to respond to this global crisis, making many companies in the biotech industry part of a ‘critical industry’.

According to Christopher C. Krebs, Director Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”

This week’s news by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, in which he ordered all non-essential businesses in the state to close, will not pertain to many of the companies in the biotech and life science field which are considered essential. Almost every company will be initiating more aggressive COOP plans moving forward to help fight the pandemic and comply with the government directives. 

You can read an inclusive list of the businesses considered to be in critical industries here.

Prior to Governor Hogan’s announcement, several HRBA members responded that they would stay open if the State of Maryland were to announce a shut down of all non-essential businesses and would provide essential personnel with documentation to use in the event they were pulled over by police or national guard.

Many companies are taking additional measures for their employees who are still required to still come into work.  One company in Frederick is providing protective-wear for their staff, requiring them to put on a mask and gloves when entering the facility, which they must wear while they are on site.  They are also being more vigilant in decontaminating surfaces and doorknobs and have increased the frequency of cleaning to keep potential transmission as low as possible.

Though not part of the survey, almost every company that BioBuzz surveyed has shifted to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, all on-site meetings with external parties unless absolutely necessary for operations.  Most business meetings have shifted to a conference call or video conference format via WebEx, Zoom or one of the many other such vendors. The need for telecommuting technology and mastery has become a topic beyond just this industry. Organizations across the globe are learning on the fly how to use these tools while being open for business virtually.

Biotech companies are built on the foundation of SOP’s and cGMP’s so there is possibly no other industry that is better poised to keep their employees safe during such a situation as this one. However, this is an unprecedented event in our history that is disrupting the lives of almost every American and impacts employees in every industry.  

This is the time that we need to come together as a regional community and as a Nation to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.  We’re #InItTogether not only for the global solidarity against the pandemic, but for the comradery that exists among the biotech industry and its many workers who will continue to show up to work to help fight COVID-19, and the many other medical threats that face us. Through this crisis, we are creating the processes and tools to win now and be better prepared for future health crises.

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