WASHINGTON DC — Just last month, Rick Bright was one of America’s leading government scientists, as the Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
But things changed quickly after he resisted political pressure to allow the widespread use of hydroxychloroquine — a malaria drug favored by President Donald Trump, as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
Bright said there are safety concerns with the drug — with known side effects like irregular heartbeat.
The vaccine specialist also said there was no sufficient data to support the use of the drug for COVID-19 patients without close supervision.
He was essentially fired by Trump and reassigned to a lesser role.
Now Bright is speaking up as a whistleblower and testified in Congress on Thursday.
He warned that the country could face its darkest winter if things are not done right — predicting COVID-19 deaths could exceed the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed more than 50 million people.
“What we do must be done carefully and with guidance from the best scientific minds. Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to improve our response now based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged. There will be likely a resurgence of COVID-19 this fall. It will be greatly compounded by the challenges of seasonal influenza.”
Bright added that scientists raised early warning signals that were overlooked, and pages from their pandemic playbook were ignored by some leadership.
“There will be plenty of time to look back to assess what has happened so we can improve. But right now we need to focus on getting things right going forward. We need a comprehensive plan that everyone knows and everyone participates in.”
As he grew more concerned and became more vocal with his opinions, he claimed he was eventually eased out of his top post.
Hours before bright’s appearance in Congress, Trump took to Twitter to bash the whistleblower and said he was merely a disgruntled employee.
Meanwhile, the president spoke to fox business network’s mornings with maria as he once again took shots against china, blaming Beijing for the pandemic and saying they should have warned the rest of the world about the virus much earlier.
He said this sours relations between China and the U.S., despite both countries just striking a new trade deal.
“They should have never let this happen. So I make a great trade deal, and now I say it just doesn’t feel the same to me. The ink was barely dry and the plague came over, and it doesn’t feel the same to me.”
Trump added that the pandemic showed that the era of globalization is over.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security said they’re looking into China-linked hackers who allegedly broke into COVID-19 research.
Beijing responded and called the accusations slander as Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian added that any action online to sabotage efforts against the disease should be condemned.
As of Thursday noon, the U.S. has more than 1.4 million cases of COVID-19 with more than 85,000 deaths.
(Cover photo: Rick Bright (left), former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), arrives at a House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2020. Reuters/Erin Scott)