'Flying Blind': Top U.S. Immunologist Quits Over Trump's Failed COVID-19 Response
A senior U.S. health official resigned from the Trump administration on Tuesday, citing President Donald Trump's chaotic and politicized response to the coronavirus crisis.
Dr. Rick Bright explained his reasons for leaving the National Institutes of Health, where he was working on a program to expand national COVID-19 testing capacity, in a report published Wednesday in the Washington Post.
"Since the coronavirus outbreak began, the government's failure to respond with a coordinated strategy has only increased the threat," wrote Bright, adding: "Nine months after the pandemic, the United States continues to grapple with the failed leadership of the white man House. "
"Instead, we get the latest spectacle in which the president is exploiting his own illness for political ends and advising the nation, 'Don't be afraid of Covid," he continued, referring to Trump's efforts to downplay the pandemic that more than killed has 211,000 people nationwide.
The Trump administration's "hostility to the truth" and its "politicization of the pandemic response" have caused tens of thousands of preventable deaths, Bright wrote.
Bright served as director of the state agency for biomedical research and development for nearly four years. He was transferred to NIH against his will in April after protesting pressure from top Department of Health and Human Services officials to want BARDA to invest in unproven COVID-19 drugs and vaccines, like one in May Whistleblower complaint submitted by Bright is evident.
“When I decided last spring against the Trump administration's insistence that BARDA support widespread access to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two potentially dangerous drugs that have been ruthlessly promoted as Covid-19 cures by President Trump, it was I forwarded to the NIH and assigned a limited resource role in the pandemic response, ”wrote Bright in his comment.
Based on information from doctors caring for Trump since he tested positive for COVID-19 last week, neither drug has been part of his treatment.
Bright said he was on hiatus from NIH last month. He also expressed concern that the test capacity program he helped build will be "wasted if it is not part of a coordinated national test strategy".
"In a government suffering from widespread internal chaos, such coordination may be impossible - especially when the White House seems determined to slow down testing rather than testing people who may have asymptomatic infections," wrote Bright.
He continued, “The country is flying blind into what may be the darkest winter in modern history. No doubt millions more Americans will be infected with the coronavirus and influenza. many thousands will die. More than ever, the public must be able to rely on honest, non-politicized and unmanipulated guidelines for public health from professional scientists. "
In a testimony given to a congressional panel in May, Bright warned of "darkest winter in modern history" this year if the Trump administration does not step up its efforts.
"The indisputable fact is that there will be a resurgence of (COVID-19) this fall, greatly exacerbating the challenges of seasonal influenza and putting an unprecedented burden on our healthcare system," Bright said at the time.
Read Bright's full editorial here.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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