Whistleblower warns of 'darkest winter' if US not more prepared against coronavirus
Rick Bright, a US health official recently ousted from a post key to developing vaccines, on Thursday warned that the United States could endure the "darkest winter in modern history" if it fails to be more prepared for a resurgence of COVID-19.
"Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged. There will be likely a resurgence of COVID-19 this fall that will be greatly compounded by the challenges of seasonal influenza," Bright told US lawmakers in a hearing. "Without better planning, 2020 could be darkest winter in modern history."
The hearing came after Bright filed a whistleblower complaint last week alleging he was removed in April as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for opposing the broad use of a drug frequently touted by the White House as a coronavirus treatment.
The official, who is working at the National Institutes of Health with a narrower role, said on Thursday that scientists must be allowed to "speak without fear of retribution."
"We need to be truthful with the American people. Americans deserve the truth. The truth must be based on science," he said. "We have the world's greatest scientists. Let us lead. Let us speak without fear of retribution. We must listen. Each of us can and must do our part now."
Additionally, Bright said the White House's preparation for the pandemic was lacking and "critical steps" were not taken in time.
"The window is closing to address this pandemic because we still do not have a standard centralized coordinated plan to take this nation through this response," he said.
US President Donald Trump, in a tweet on Thursday morning, said that he doesn't know Bright.
"I don't know the so-called Whistleblower Rick Bright, never met him or even heard of him, but to me he is a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!" Trump wrote.
Nearly 1.4 million people in the United States have been infected with the novel coronavirus, with more than 84,000 deaths, according to the latest count by Johns Hopkins University on Thursday.