A Note to ASM Members About COVID-19

March 23, 2020

First and foremost, I hope you are doing well and taking the necessary precautions to protect yourselves, your families and friends and your communities. I cannot stress how important it is to follow the public health guidance of social distancing, as at the moment, this is the best known way to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves, we want you to know that ASM has been working hard to create the conditions for expanded availability of SARS-CoV-2 testing, provide free access to SARS-CoV-2 research findings and deliver accurate, timely information to the public.

ASM leadership, including ASM CEO, Stefano Bertuzzi, ASM’s advocacy team and other staff and volunteers, continue to work with Congress, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the White House as we combat this public health crisis and address concerns of our clinical community to make the tests available to everyone who needs them.

Earlier this week, the FDA announced policy changes to boost laboratory testing capacity and expand availability of SARS-CoV-2 tests.  ASM made a statement about the changes which will improve production and distribution of diagnostics kits in the U.S.  We are continuing to work with the FDA for further action.

ASM also weighed in on the issue of a supply shortage for SARS-CoV-2 PCR reagents. Though much more remains to be done, this is an important step in helping microbiologists respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

My colleague Melissa Miller, Chair of ASM’s Clinical and Public Health Microbiology Committee and Director of the clinical molecular microbiology laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, spoke to the Washington Post about what went wrong with testing.

I know many of you may be wondering about upcoming ASM meetings. After careful consideration, we have decided to cancel ASM’s Clinical Virology Symposium that was scheduled for May 3-6, 2020. In accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent recommendation against holding gatherings with 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, we believe this is the responsible decision and in the best interest of our community. ASM will fully refund registration and exhibitor fees within the next 30 days.

The ASM meetings team is working closely with health authorities, local partners, program planners and key service providers to explore all alternatives for our other meetings, including ASM Microbe.  We will be updating our website regularly for all upcoming meetings and we will provide email updates to all registered attendees. 

As leaders in the microbial sciences, it is our responsibility to allow free and rapid access to important research related to SAR-CoV-2. ASM announced it would provide free access to more than 50 research articles published over the last year in its scholarly journals and expedite review for submitted papers related to coronavirus. This follows the request from the White House Office of Science and Technology to make all COVID-19 and coronavirus-related publications, and the available data supporting them, immediately accessible in PubMed Central (PMC) and license it in ways that facilitate reuse.

Looking ahead to preparedness for future pandemics, ASM has also requested that Congress initiate a high-level, comprehensive review of the SARS-CoV-2 response once the immediate public health emergency subsides. By fully understanding both what went well and gaps in our response protocol, we can help thwart, or at least minimize, the effects of the next pandemic. 

From examining the method of SARS-CoV-2 infection to studying the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients to develop a treatment, ASM members are on the front lines of ground-breaking research that is helping us understand and combat this novel coronavirus. On ASM’s podcasts, our experts have reviewed the latest epi curves, person-to-person transmission and the length of time the virus remains on surfaces. Our members are using next-generation sequencing to study how coronaviruses spread in animal populations, which will help monitor how they may spread in humans.

I encourage you to take advantage of the ASM COVID-19 resource page, which includes a public outreach toolkit to inform your community on the COVID-19 situation and new developments.
 

Author: Past President

Past President
Chair of the Division of Clinical Microbiology, at Mayo Clinic.