Whistleblower: US could face virus rebound 'darkest winter'

Full Screen
1 / 5

In this image provided by Public Health Emergency, a department of Health and Human Services, Rick Bright is shown in his official photo from April 27, 2017, in Washington. America faces the darkest winter in modern history unless leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus, says Bright, a government whistleblower who alleges he was ousted from his job for warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic. (Health and Human Services via AP)

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 one-fourth 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.

Eager to restart the economy, Trump has been urging states to lift restrictions, and many governors are doing so gradually, though consumers remain leery of going back to restaurants, social events and sporting competitions.