Newly released emails from early March offer a behind-the-scenes look at Massachusetts public health officials attempting to get a handle on the beginnings of the coronavirus outbreak with one of the state’s largest drugmakers at its center.
The emails, obtained through a public-records request, also show an internal debate at the state Department of Public Health about canceling large events in early March. State officials later that month would shut down wide swaths of the economy in an effort to slow the coronavirus spread.
In those early days, when so much was still unknown about the contagion, state public health officials worked with Biogen Inc., which had held a leadership conference in late February. That event became, as Gov. Charlie Baker himself put it earlier this year, the launch of coronavirus in Eastern Massachusetts.
Nearly 100 people became ill following the conference at the Marriott Long Wharf in Boston, and a recent report from dozens of scientists at the Broad Institute and Mass General Hospital posits that the event led to as many as 20,000 coronavirus cases.
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