Ousted whistleblower warns US is heading toward “darkest winter in modern history”

Dr. Rick Bright, formerly the director of an American research agency working on a coronavirus vaccine, testified to a House subcommittee on Thursday morning that “without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”

Bright warned lawmakers in his testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee that the US should take “simple but critical steps” to contain the coronavirus pandemic and prevent a catastrophic second wave of infections this winter .

“We need to have the right tests for everyone who needs it. We need to be able to track, isolate, quarantine, and do the right thing – as we strive to develop a cure, ”said Bright. “There will be plenty of time to look back to assess what happened so we can improve, but right now we need to focus on the future.”

He also told the committee in his opening statement that he believes a Covid-19 vaccine is a question of when, not or, but warned that “12 to 18 months is an aggressive schedule and I think it will take longer than that.” to produce a vaccine.

Until last month, Bright led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the Department of Health and Human Services. He claims that his removal from that post was a retaliatory act by Trump government officials because he opposed White House pressure to promote unproven coronavirus treatments with hydroxychloroquine.

In his opening statement, Bright supported Tuesday’s Senate testimony by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Dr. Fauci conveyed a message in a clear and reliable voice because he encouraged us to be careful when we return to our daily lives, “said Bright. “We need to increase public awareness of the basics – wash hands, take social distance, appropriate face covering.”

Bright’s written testimony, submitted ahead of Thursday’s hearing, received an even stronger warning: that without clear planning and quick action, next winter will be the darkest in recent history. He modulated that warning somewhat on Thursday, but was still sobering.

“If we don’t improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and continue,” said Bright. “There is likely to be a resurgence of Covid-19 this fall, and it will exacerbate the challenges of seasonal flu.”

In his written testimony, Bright describes “dismissive” HHS leadership. He said he warned the department as early as January to increase production of fans, personal protective equipment and cotton swab testing pending a pandemic, and his warnings were ignored.

“I met with indifference and said they were either too busy, they had no plan, they didn’t know who was responsible for buying it”, Bright said of his pursuit of HHS to obtain more personal protective equipment. “Some excuses. But never action. ‘

Bright also said in prepared testimony that he was “left out of important high-level meetings to combat COVID-19.”

Bright raises the alarm about Trump’s politicization of medical science

In April, Bright filed a whistleblower complaint about his removal from the main BARDA job. In the complaint, he claims that he opposed pressure from the White House to promote and finance the advertising now in disrepute antimalarial hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus against more promising solutions.

“Placing myself in the midst of this pandemic and putting politics and favoritism in front of science is endangering lives and hindering national efforts to address this urgent public health crisis safely and effectively,” Bright wrote in the letter.

The complaint was first reported by Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times.

The Special Board office has since done that locked that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Bright has retaliated and should be restored to his previous position as director of BARDA.

The same watchdog reportedly found a “significant probability of wrongdoing” in Bright’s removal, according to a statement released Thursday by his attorneys.

However, at Thursday’s hearing, Republicans on the committee focused more on making the case that President Trump had good reasons to promote hydroxychloroquine than to fathom the circumstances surrounding Bright’s removal.

Others attacked Bright. Rep. For example, Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) suggested that Bright tried to “deceive the American people“Taking medical leave for hypertension, and Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) attempted to distort Bright’s criticism of HHS leadership as an attack on Fauci.

Meanwhile, during a Q&A with reporters prior to Trump’s trip to Pennsylvania, administration officials attempted to undermine Bright’s statement by attacking him.

“While we’re launching Operation Warp Speed, he’s not showing up for work,” said Alex Azar, Minister of Health and Human Services.

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