Whistle­blower says US to face ‘dark­est winter in mod­ern his­tory’

Orlando Sentinel - - Nation & World - By Ri­cardo Alonso-Zaldivar

WASHINGTON — Amer­ica faces the “dark­est winter in mod­ern his­tory” un­less lead­ers act de­ci­sively to pre­vent a re­bound of the coro­n­avirus, says a gov­ern­ment whistle­blower who al­leges he was ousted from his job af­ter warn­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to pre­pare for the pan­demic.

Im­mu­nol­o­gist Dr. Rick Bright makes his sober­ing pre­dic­tion in tes­ti­mony pre­pared for his ap­pear­ance Thurs­day be­fore the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee. As­pects of his com­plaint about early ad­min­is­tra­tion han­dling of the cri­sis are ex­pected to be backed up by tes­ti­mony from an ex­ec­u­tive of a com­pany that man­u­fac­tures, res­pi­ra­tor masks.

A fed­eral watch­dog agency has found “rea­son­able grounds” that Bright was re­moved from his post as head of the Bio­med­i­cal Ad­vanced Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity af­ter sound­ing the alarm at the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. Bright al­leged he be­came a tar­get of crit­i­cism when he urged early ef­forts to in­vest in vaccine de­vel­op­ment and stock up on sup­plies.

“Our win­dow of op­por­tu­nity is clos­ing,” Bright says in his pre­pared tes­ti­mony posted on the House com­mit­tee web­site. “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’s tes­ti­mony fol­lows this week’s warn­ing by Dr. An­thony Fauci, the gov­ern­ment’s top in­fec­tious dis­ease ex­pert, that a rushed lift­ing of store-clos­ing and stay-at-home re­stric­tions could “turn back the clock,” seed­ing more suf­fer­ing and death and com­pli­cat­ing ef­forts to get the econ­omy rolling again.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has dis­missed Bright as “a dis­grun­tled guy,” and some of the pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal al­lies have urged that Fauci be fired, al­though that seems un­likely.

More than 83,000 peo­ple have died in the U.S., rep­re­sent­ing more than one­fourth of global deaths and the world’s high­est toll. On the planet more than 4.3 mil­lion have been in­fected and about 295,000 have died.

In his tes­ti­mony, Bright said, “The un­de­ni­able fact is there will be a resur­gence of (COVID-19) this fall, greatly com­pound­ing the chal­lenges of sea­sonal in­fluenza and putting an un­prece­dented strain on our health care sys­tem.”

“With­out clear plan­ning and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the steps that I and other ex­perts have out­lined, 2020 will be dark­est winter in mod­ern his­tory,” Bright wrote.


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