Bright says his warnings on supply shortages were ignored

Bright says his warnings on supply shortages were ignored
© Greg Nash

Former Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) head Rick Bright said on Thursday that his warnings about medical supply shortages were ignored by his superiors. 

Bright told House lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee that he began to get alerts from manufacturers that the supply chain for masks and other personal protective equipment was “diminishing rapidly” as early as January. 

Countries that the U.S. relied on to supply many of those masks were blocking exports and stopping transfers of those masks to the United States, Bright said. He said he warned his superiors about severe shortages of N95 respirators needed for front-line health care workers.

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“I was met with indifference, saying they were either too busy, they didn't have a plan, they didn't know who was responsible for procuring those," Bright said.

During an exchange Thursday with Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorLawmakers, public bid farewell to John Lewis Economic recovery versus climate action: A false choice OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer MORE (D-Fla.), Bright said he urged officials to ramp up production.

"They indicated if we notice there is a shortage, that we will simply change the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines to better inform people who should not be wearing those masks, so that would save those masks for our healthcare workers," Bright said. 

"My response was, 'I cannot believe you can sit and say that with a straight face. It was absurd.'"

Bright said he thinks the supply shortages and the delay in production increases cost lives.

"I believe lives were lost, and not only that, we were forced to procure these supplies from other countries without the right quality standards," Bright said. "So even our doctors and nurses in the hospitals today are wearing N95 marked masks from other countries that are not providing the sufficient protection that a U.S.-standard N95 mask would provide them."