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President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar lashed out at ousted health official Rick Bright as he testified before Congress Thursday, dismissing his allegations about the administration ignoring his warnings about the pandemic as those of a "disgruntled employee."

Why it matters: Bright, who led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until April, testified to a House panel that he was cut out of meetings by HHS leadership and was told his repeated warnings in January and February were "causing a commotion."

  • Email chains show Bright raised concerns about how the government's stockpile lacked critical supples like personal protective equipment as early as late January, before shortages on medical supplies became a huge problem in the U.S., according to a whistleblower complaint he filed.
  • "I pushed that forward to the highest levels I could in HHS and got no response," Bright testified. "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."

What they're saying:

  • Trump: "To me, he is nothing more than a really disgruntled, unhappy person. ... I don't know, I never met him, I don't want to meet him, but I watched him, and he looks like an angry, disgruntled employee who, frankly, according to some people, didn't do a very good job."
  • Azar: "Whose job was it to actually lead the development of vaccines? Dr. Bright. So while we're launching Operation Warp Speed, he's not showing up to work to be part of that. This is like somebody who was in a choir and is now trying to say he was a soloist back then. What he was saying is what every member of this administration and the president was saying."

Worth noting: Bright claims he was pushed out of his role because he resisted efforts by HHS leadership to promote the drug hydroxychloroquine. Azar told reporters Thursday: "On hydroxychloroquine, Dr. Bright literally signed the application for FDA authorization of it. Literally, he's the sponsor of it."

  • Asked about this during his testimony, Bright said that he supported the use of hydroxychloroquine under the supervision of a physician.
  • But when HHS leadership issued a directive to make the drug more broadly available, that's when Bright says he resisted: "I did not think it was the proper or safe way to evaluate that drug in the context of this outbreak."

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

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Aug 21, 2020 - Health

Hospitals still suing patients in coronavirus hotspots

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

As millions of Americans lost their jobs and fell sick with the coronavirus this summer, hospitals in some of the hardest-hit states were getting back to the business of suing their patients.

Why it matters: The Americans least likely to be able to pay their medical bills are the same people who are vulnerable to the virus and its economic fallout.

Biden says he would issue nationwide stay-at-home order in face of COVID-flu nightmare

Joe Biden accepts the Democratic Party nomination on Aug. 20. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden told ABC News on Friday that, if elected, he would issue a nationwide stay-at-home order at the recommendation of scientists if coronavirus infections surged in January alongside the flu season.

Why it matters: The country's coronavirus crisis could worsen this winter if hospitals are overwhelmed with patients requiring care from COVID-19 at the same time as the flu. The severity of the influenza season also depends on how many Americans get flu shots.

Updated Jan 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to coronavirus pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Azar says deadly Capitol siege could "tarnish" Trump administration's legacy — Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.