In a statement released ahead of scheduled Thursday testimony before Congress, career government scientist Dr. Rick Bright said that the federal government failed to heed dire warnings about the COVID-19 coronavirus, leaving the nation ill-equipped to combat the global pandemic.
“As I reflect on the past few months of this outbreak, it is painfully clear that we were not as prepared as we should have been. We missed early warning signals and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook,” Bright wrote in his opening statement, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.
Bright, the former director of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)–a key vaccine-related agency in the federal government’s fight against COVID-19–also claims he repeatedly warned the administration about the threat posed by the disease but rebuffed on every occasion.
“HHS leadership was dismissive about my dire predictions about what I assumed would be a broader outbreak and the pressing need to act, and were therefore unwilling to act with the urgency that the situation required,” Bright’s statement said, mirroring the allegations of his whistleblower complaint.
Bright said he later pushed HHS to “ramp up” production of PPE and testing supplies, but was met with the same response.
Again, my urgency was dismissed and I was cut out of key high-level meetings to combat COVID-19. When I was nevertheless able to convey these urgent concerns by speaking directly with a senior White House advisor and with members of Congress who better understood the urgency to act, I faced hostility and marginalization from HHS officials.
He also cautioned against the push to re-open the economy against the explicit warnings of health care experts, saying it could lead to “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,” he wrote. “While it is terrifying to acknowledge the extent of the challenge that we currently confront, the undeniable fact is there will be a resurgence of the COVID-19 this fall, greatly compounding the challenges of seasonal influenza and putting an unprecedented strain on our healthcare system.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, Bright filed a whistleblower complaint claiming he was removed from his position in retaliation for refuting the Trump administration’s efforts to promote and enable broad access to the unproven anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. Subsequent studies have almost entirely debunked the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating the disease caused by COVID-19.
[image via YouTube screengrab]
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