Ousted Trump official will warn of ‘unprecedented illness and fatalities’ without coordinated coronavirus response
A former top federal vaccine doctor plans to testify in Congress that the Trump administration was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, and that without a national coordinated response “2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history.”
“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” Rick Bright will say, according to written testimony first obtained by CNN and then posted publicly by a House committee.
Bright is the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). He will testify Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health after he filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that his refusal to broadly promote an unproven anti-malaria drug to treat COVID-19 directly resulted in his ouster from the agency.
Bright had been in charge of BARDA from 2016 until last month, when he was reassigned to a narrower position at the National Institutes of Health.
Bright is seeking to be reinstated to his former position and is asking for a full investigation into his reassignment.
According to his testimony, Bright plans to say that the Department of Health and Human Services ignored his warnings about a broad outbreak and dismissed his recommendations to ramp up U.S production of masks, respirators and other critical supplies, such as medicine, syringes and swabs.
“We missed early warning signals and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook,” Bright writes in his testimony, adding that, “There will be plenty of time to identify gaps for improvement. For now, we need to focus on getting things right going forward.”
Bright’s testimony also calls for a national testing strategy to combat the virus, something that the White House has left to individual states.
“We need to be able to find it, to isolate it and to stop it from infecting more people. We need tests that are accurate, rapid, easy to use, low cost, and available to everyone who needs them,” Bright’s testimony says.
“We need to be able to trust the results so that we can trace contacts, isolate and quarantine appropriately while striving to develop a cure.”