Whistle-blower: US faces 'darkest winter in modern history'

Immunologist makes sobering prediction in testimony prepared for Thursday appearance before congressional committee.

    A woman walks along an empty street in Kansas City, Missouri, which remains under stay-at-home orders until May 15 [Charlie Riedel/AP Photo]
    A woman walks along an empty street in Kansas City, Missouri, which remains under stay-at-home orders until May 15 [Charlie Riedel/AP Photo]

    The United States faces the "darkest winter in modern history" unless leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus, according to a government whistle-blower who alleges he was removed from his job for warning the administration of US President Donald Trump to prepare for the pandemic.

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

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    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 for sounding the alarm at the US Department of Health and Human Services.

    "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.

    Trump has dismissed Bright as "a disgruntled guy", and some of the president's political allies have urged that Fauci be fired.

    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.

    In his prepared testimony, Bright says, "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 healthcare 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.

    Bright, who has a doctoral degree in immunology, outlined a path forward that would be based on science, even as researchers work to develop better treatments and an effective vaccine. The steps include establishing a national testing strategy, doubling down on educating the public about basic safety measures, ramping up production of essential equipment and supplies, and setting up a system to fairly distribute equipment and supplies that are scarce and highly sought.

    SOURCE: AP news agency