Rick Bright, who was removed from his position as head of a top vaccine agency last month, testified Thursday to the House Energy and Commerce Committee that he was cut out of meetings and was told his repeated warnings about the Trump administration's lack of preparedness for the coronavirus were "causing a commotion" in January and February.

The big picture: The former director of the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority said there were "critical steps" that the Trump administration failed to take early on, including securing viral samples from China and ramping up production of the country's stockpile of medical supplies.

  • In his opening statement, Bright testified that the "window of opportunity" is closing and that the U.S. could face the "darkest winter in modern history" if it doesn't develop a national coordinated response
  • Bright was ousted from his position in April, which he claimed was a result of a leadership clash within the Department of Health and Human Services over his attempts to limit the use of hydroxychloroquine — an unproven drug heavily touted by President Trump — to treat the coronavirus.

What he's saying: In late January and early February, Bright said he pointed to several opportunities within the administration to respond to the looming pandemic, like coming up with a plan to acquire doses of the drug remdesivir and increase production of personal protective equipment.

  • His warnings, he said, "were not responded to with action. ... There was no action taken on the urgency to come up with a plan for acquisition of limited doses of remdesivir, nor to distribute those limited doses of remdesivir once we had the scientific data to support their use for people infected with this virus."
  • "I was told that my urgings were causing a commotion, and I was removed from those meetings."

Later in his testimony, Bright was asked to recount a moment in January in which he realized that the U.S. was unprepared for the pandemic. He responded:

“I’ll never forget the emails I received from [mask manufacturer] Mike Bowen indicating that our mask supply, our N95 respirator supply, was completely decimated. And he said, ‘We’re in deep shit. The world is. And we need to act.' And I pushed that forward to the highest levels I could in HHS and got no response. And from that moment I knew that we were going to have a crisis for our health care workers because we were not taking action. We were already behind the ball."

The other side: Republicans on the subcommittee have questioned the rushed nature of Bright's appearance Thursday, arguing that his whistleblower complaint should have first been investigated by the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee before his testimony.

Go deeper: Bright testifies government lacks plan to equitably distribute a vaccine

Go deeper

Nurses rally nationwide to demand protection amid pandemic

Healthcare workers on their way to work walk past demonstrators taking part in a national day of action in Miami on Wednesday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Nurses took more than 200 active demonstrations inside and outside U.S. hospital facilities in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia on Wednesday to demand full personal protective equipment and federal government action.

Driving the news: National Nurses United (NNU) members are demanding that the Senate pass the HEROES Act, House Democrats' $3 trillion pandemic recovery package, which they said would protect health care workers by ensuring domestic production of PPE through the Defense Production Act.

GOP senator says stimulus needs to be as "narrowly focused" on COVID-19 as possible

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said at an Axios virtual event Wednesday that the next coronavirus relief package needs to be as "narrowly focused" on COVID-specific issues as possible in order to resolve the differences between Republicans and Democrats.

Why it matters: Democrats and negotiators from the Trump administration remain far apart on a deal for the next tranche of relief. The fraught negotiations come as millions of Americans continue to suffer from the health and economic effects of the pandemic without the unemployment benefits from the first stimulus bill.

Updated 13 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

An uptick in coronavirus cases in Europe is stoking fears that some countries, including France and Germany, could see a second wave, The New York Times reports.

The big picture: Both Germany and France have reported their highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases in months this past week. Some coronavirus mitigation efforts, like social distancing, aren't being enforced as strongly as they previously were.