More high-profile testimony on the coronavirus took place on Capitol Hill Thursday, this time from Rick Bright, the vaccine official who says he was ousted from his government post for defying the White House on its coronavirus response. Bright hit some key points in advance excerpts, in which he warned of the "darkest winter in modern history" if the US response doesn't improve. He elaborated in his testimony, saying, "The window is closing to address this pandemic," reports the New York Times.
- Big worry: "We don't have (a vaccine plan) yet, and it is a significant concern," he told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, per the AP. Should lawmakers be worried? "Absolutely."
- Strong words: He said he would "never forget" emails he received from Mike Bowen, an exec at a medical supply company, about how the supply of N95 masks was "completely decimated," per Business Insider. "And he said, 'We’re in deep s---. The world is. And we need to act,'" recalled Bright. "And I pushed that forward to the highest levels I could in HHS and got no response. From that moment I knew that we were going to have a crisis for our health care workers because we were not taking action. We were already behind the ball."
- Trump rebuke: Trump told reporters he watched part of Bright's testimony and called him a "really disgruntled, unhappy person," reports the Hill. “I don’t know him, I never met him, I don’t want to meet him, but I watched him and he looks like an angry, disgruntled employee who frankly according to some people didn’t do a very good job." Trump also disputed Bright on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, saying his administration had received "tremendous response" to its use. Health and Human Services chief Alex Azar also disputed Bright's main points. "Everything he is complaining about was achieved."
- Too optimistic? Bright cautioned the 12- to 18-month estimate for a vaccine being mentioned by White House officials is an "aggressive schedule."
- Summing up: "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," said Bright.
(Bright has filed a whistleblower
complaint, alleging he was demoted because of his actions.)