INDIANAPOLIS — Dozens of officials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had a different kind of race on their minds Wednesday: the race against the next pandemic.
The IMS can comfortably hold up to 330,000 people, making it a hotspot for a super-spreader event or a prime target for biological warfare.
It is for that reason that the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense met at the iconic racetrack —seeking solutions to what they call a “never-ending race” against biological threats.
The commission heard hours of testimony as they evaluated the response of the federal, state and local governments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The number of experts that were brought in to help advise the governor and to advise the state of Indiana, but we learned is because of that virus changing so often, guidance had to change,” Former Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks said.
Health experts agreed.
“We were learning about the virus as we were treating it, so even as providers, it was challenging for us to sort of keep up with,” Tory Castor, JD, the Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs at IU Health, said.
Dr. Virginia A. Caine, the Director of the Marion County Public Health Department, said staffing and getting resources to underserved populations were some of the biggest challenges for local health departments throughout Indiana during the pandemic.
“Our state legislators have provided $225M to local health departments to improve our public health infrastructure so hopefully we’ll be able to see a lot of the gaps in services,” Dr. Caine said.
Last week, the Department of Defense awarded Indiana roughly $30 million to create a hub for microchip production.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb asked the commission to consider the role of Indiana’s future hub in the fight to boost biodefense measures.
“For a state like Indiana, the number one manufacturing state in America… this is a sweet spot for us and why we’re so heavily leaning into that future, not just economy, but that future sector,” Gov. Holcomb said.
The commission said its goal is to implement its National Blueprint for Biodefense plan nationwide. The commission created the plan in 2015, but it didn’t have enough congressional support to be implemented throughout the entire country.