Rick Bright: ‘Ousted’ vaccine expert says US is facing its ‘darkest winter’


A former top US health official has told Congress the country could face its “darkest winter in modern history” because of the coronavirus.

Rick Bright led the government agency trying to develop a vaccine, but was removed from his post last month.

Mr Bright says he was ousted from the job after refusing to promote an untested drug treatment being touted as a “game changer” by President Trump.

Mr Trump has claimed Mr Bright is a “disgruntled” employee.

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Mr Bright also told the House of Representatives subcommittee on health “lives were lost” because of government “inaction” in the early stages of the outbreak.

He said he first spoke out about a medical equipment shortage in January, raising the issue to the “highest levels” of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but “got no response”.

In other US developments:

A total of 85,807 people have now died with the coronavirus in the US. New York state continues to have the highest death toll in the US, with 27,607 deaths
Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the US Senate intelligence committee, has said he will step down while an investigation into allegations of insider trading is carried out. Mr Burr is accused of using inside information to avoid market losses from the coronavirus pandemic
Michigan’s state legislature cancelled its Thursday session after receiving death threats and facing more armed protests from right-wing groups campaigning against lockdown measures
Almost a quarter of US workers are now claiming unemployment benefits, after the number of people seeking unemployment jumped by almost three million last week
President Trump’s Florida resort Mar-a-Lago will partially re-open this weekend, but guests will need to maintain social distancing, US broadcaster CNN reports.
What else did Mr Bright say?
During his testimony, Mr Bright warned that the US’s “window of opportunity” to deal with the coronavirus was “closing”.

“If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged,” he said.

“Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”

Mr Bright also told the subcommittee that in January he received an email he would “never forget”, from a supplier of medical-grade face masks who warned of a severe shortage.

“He said… we need to act. And I pushed that forward to the highest level that I could of HHS – and got no response.”