Updated May 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Whistleblower alleges Trump administration ignored coronavirus warnings

In this image, HHS secretary stands in front of flags
HHS Secretary Alex Azar at the White House on April 30. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Rick Bright, the former director of the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), filed a whistleblower complaint Tuesday alleging that the Department of Health and Human Services failed to take early action to mitigate the threat of the novel coronavirus.

Flashback: Bright said last month he believes he was ousted after clashing with HHS leadership over his attempts to limit the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.

What's new: In his complaint, Bright claims he was excluded from an HHS meeting on the coronavirus in late January after he "pressed for urgent access to funding, personnel, and clinical specimens, including viruses" to develop treatments for the coronavirus should it spread outside of Asia.

  • Bright alleges it "became increasingly clear" in late January that "HHS leadership was doing nothing to prepare for the imminent mask shortage."
  • Bright claims he "resisted efforts to fall into line with the Administration’s directive to promote the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and to award lucrative contracts for these and other drugs even though they lacked scientific merit and had not received prior scientific vetting."
  • He adds that "even as HHS leadership began to acknowledge the imminent shortages in critical medical supplies, they failed to recognize the magnitude of the problem, and they failed to take the necessary urgent action."

What's next: Bright plans to testify before the House Energy Subcommittee on Health on May 14, his lawyers told reporters on Tuesday.

What they're saying: “Dr. Bright was transferred to NIH to work on diagnostics testing – critical to combatting COVID-19 – where he has been entrusted to spend upwards of $1 billion to advance that effort. We are deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor," Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokesperson, said in a statement.

The White House declined to comment on this story.

Read the complaint.

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