Enlarge /. Rick Bright, then Deputy Secretary for Readiness and Response for Health and Human Services (HHS), speaks during a hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation on Thursday March 8, 2018.
Whistleblower Rick Bright plans to tell Congress that "2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history" if the United States ignores warnings from scientists that it is too early to fully reopen the economy.
Bright, who headed the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) until he said Trump officials had forced him out of his position, is scheduled for a house hearing tomorrow on "Protecting Scientific Integrity in the COVID-19 response " statement . "Bright's written testimony was released online today by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Health Sub-Committee, which is holding the hearing.
Although I unfortunately no longer manage BARDA, I am an expert in these areas and fully understand the serious risks to which we are exposed. I still believe that we need to act urgently to fight this deadly disease effectively. Our time window closes. If we fail to develop a nationally coordinated response based on science, I fear that the pandemic will worsen and continue, causing unprecedented illnesses and deaths. While it is frightening to acknowledge the scale of the challenge we are currently facing, the undeniable fact is that COVID-19 will resurface this fall, which will greatly aggravate the challenges of seasonal influenza and unprecedentedly improve our health care system charged. Without clear planning and implementation of the steps outlined by myself and other experts, 2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history.
While President Trump is pushing for America's reopening and arguing with state governors over shutdown orders, Bright said the government must "give the American people a message with a voice that is clear, consistent, trustworthy, and supported by the best available science becomes." ""
"As my colleague Dr. Anthony Fauci said on May 12, 2020, we cannot act blindly or too quickly to return to our daily lives," wrote Bright. "If we ignore science, there is a dramatically increased risk that the spread of the virus will deteriorate in the coming months. This could lead to more widespread outbreaks and many more deaths later this year."
Trump meanwhile criticized Fauci for warning that it could be dangerous to reopen schools in the fall. "It's not an acceptable answer for me, especially when it comes to schools," Trump said today, according to CNN. "We open our country. People want it to open. Schools will be open," Trump said.
"New normality" will not be easy to achieve
Bright wrote that "the normalcy of 2019 will not return, but we all have the opportunity to shape the new normality of 2020 and beyond." It would require "the participation and cooperation of every American" to achieve this, he said.
"Today we need clear and simple messages to teach how to wear a face cover, when and how to safely go outside or back to work or back to school. It's that simple," he wrote.
Bright said he believed a COVID-19 cure would be found. In the meantime, however, he wrote that the US needs to improve public education about hand washing, social distancing, face covering, and self-monitoring. Increasing the production of "critical supplies and protective equipment" for medical personnel and first aiders; Distribute equipment and supplies fairly to "eliminate state-to-state competition"; and develop "a national test strategy".
"We need tests that are accurate, fast, easy to use, inexpensive, and available to everyone who needs them. We need to be able to trust the results so that we can track, isolate, and quarantine contacts while we are strive to develop one. " heal, "he said.
The investigation of whistleblowers continues
As we wrote last week, Bright's whistleblower complaint to the US Office of Special Counsel describes how the Trump administration's COVID-19 response was hampered by cronyism and rejection of the severity of the virus. Bright says his early warnings of the pandemic and lack of critical medical care have been largely ignored and he has been referred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a "retaliation downgrade".
Trump dismissed Bright as a "disgruntled employee trying to help Democrats win an election," according to the NPR. The Ministry of Health and Human Services said the agency "disagreed with the allegations and characterizations in Dr. Bright's complaint."
However, the Office of Special Counsel's preliminary investigation found "reason to believe" that, according to Bright lawyers, the Trump administration has taken retaliation against Bright in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act. (The Office of Special Counsel does not comment on open investigations.) An in-depth investigation into the office has not yet been completed, and the Trump administration's treatment of Bright is expected to be discussed at the hearing tomorrow.
MP Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Chair of the subcommittee and scheduled to be heard tomorrow, said last week that the "Bright complaint deserves an examination".
"Dr. Bright's complaint about whistleblowers raises serious concerns about the government's COVID-19 response, including alleged gross mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority, and scientific censorship," said Eshoo.