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Major DC lobby firm for drug industry closes after visitor tests positive for coronavirus

Stephen J. Ubl, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the industry’s main trade group, said Tuesday it has closed its headquarters in Washington D.C. after a visitor tested positive for COVID-19.

PhRMA learned Monday night that the individual, who is not an employee and last visited the office on March 5, was diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to spokesperson Holly Campbell.

“Our priority is the health and safety of PhRMA, member company employees and others we work with,” she said. “Based on initial conversations with public health offices and out of an abundance of caution, PhRMA has closed our Washington, D.C., headquarters for the remainder of the week and will conduct a deep cleaning of all our facilities.”

“We have also asked those individuals who were in the meeting with the diagnosed person to self-quarantine and not return to our offices until March 20,” she said.

The news was first reported by STAT News.

On Friday, Biogen, a member of the trade group, said three employees tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a meeting in Boston last week.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there are at least 808 U.S. cases of the virus and at least 28 deaths, according to data compiled by John Hopkins.

There are no proven therapies for the virus, which emerged from China a little over two months ago. The pharmaceutical industry, in collaboration with U.S. health officials, are fast-tracking work on a coronavirus vaccine, hoping to start an early-stage trial as early as next month. 

PhRMA said Tuesday it “remains committed to combating the epidemic, and our companies are continuing to actively research and develop potential treatments and vaccines.”