Healthcare ‘Whistleblower’ Testifies ‘Window Of Opportunity Is Closing’ On COVID-19 Response

On Thursday morning, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will host Rick Bright, a former federal official who oversaw the production of a coronavirus vaccine.

According to a release of his opening statement, Bright will warn committee members of how the country could experience the “darkest winter in modern history.”

“Our window of opportunity is closing,” he will say, according to ABC News. “If we fail to develop a nationally coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”

“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 COVID19 this fall, greatly compounding the challenges of seasonal influenza and putting an unprecedented strain on our health care system,” Bright’s statement to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health says.

“Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history,” Bright intends to say. “The virus is out there, it’s everywhere. We need to be able to find it, to isolate it, and to stop it from infecting more people. We need tests that are accurate, rapid, easy to use, low cost, and available to everyone who needs them.”

ABC News reports:

The testimony comes following a whistleblower complaint Bright filed earlier this month alleging that he was removed from his job in “retaliation” for raising concerns over various aspects of the administration’s coronavirus response.

Lawyers for Bright said last week that a federal watchdog had determined sufficient evidence exists that his removal may have been was retaliation. His attorneys said the Office of Special Counsel will request that the Department of Health and Human Services stay his removal while his claim is investigated.

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Bright came forward with a whistleblower complaint earlier this month and was removed from his post. But, according to an HHS spokesperson, he was removed when he had not “shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor.”

“Dr. Bright was transferred to NIH to work on diagnostics testing — critical to combatting COVID-19 — where he has been entrusted to spend upwards of $1 billion to advance that effort. We are deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor,” HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said via ABC News.

She added: “This is a personnel matter that is currently under review. However, HHS strongly disagrees with the allegations and characterizations in the complaint from Dr. Bright.”