Dramatic testimony is expected Thursday from an ousted health official who has accused the Trump administration of downplaying the coronavirus threat - and says he was pushed out when he voiced concerns.
In prepared remarks released publicly prior to his Congressional hearing, Dr. Rick Bright - a vaccine and therapeutics expert - writes, “Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be [the] darkest winter in modern history.”
Bright was head of a government agency in charge of helping develop vaccines to fight the virus.
Last week he filed a whistleblower complaint saying that he warned government officials about the virus in January, but that he was met with hostility from Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and several others in the administration.
In his prepared testimony, Bright also writes, “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.”
Bright had resisted pushing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the related chloroquine as cures for COVID-19, saying their use as a treatment lacked scientific merit.
In doing so, he put himself at odds with President Trump, who repeatedly touted the drugs as a “game changer” even though few studies showed any possible benefits.
Bright claims that pushback cost him his job as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, known as BARDA.
Trump, however, says he doesn't know him.
"Dr. Bright - I never met Dr. Bright. I don't know who he is. I don't know much about it but to me he seems like a disgruntled employee."
Bright has since been reassigned to a new government job.
Bright in his prepared remarks also says the coronavirus has, “the potential to eclipse the devastation wrought by the 1918 influenza which globally claimed over 50 million lives.”