Welch questions government whistleblower over Trump virus response

Published: May. 14, 2020 at 1:16 PM EDT
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Vermont Congressman Peter Welch is among lawmakers questioning a U.S. immunologist who says he lost his government job because he tried to warn the Trump administration about shortcomings in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Rick Bright Thursday told Congress that America faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless its leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus. He says the administration ignored repeated warnings that the country was short on critical supplies like masks, respirators, syringes and swabs.

"I did feel quite concerned that we didn't' have those supplies. I began pushing in January, along with some industry colleagues as well and those urges, those alarms were not responded to with action," Bright said.

Welch, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, compared the pandemic responses in countries like South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan to the response in the U.S., which has the most COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world.

Rep. Peter Welch: Establishing a protocol -- was that done here?

Dr. Rick Bright: No.

Rep. Peter Welch: Then allocating and distributing of personal protective equipment to where it was needed when it was needed. Was that done here?

Dr. Rick Bright: No sir.

Rep. Peter Welch: In fact, we had governors and hospitals competing with each other to get desperately needed equipment. Is that correct?

Dr. Rick Bright: There was a lot of confusion, a lot of competition and bad decisions made to acquire poor quality product.

Welch said that had the country heeded early warnings, the death toll would likely have been substantially lower.

During this morning's hearing President Trump tweeted: "I don't know the so-called Whistleblower Rick Bright, never met him or even heard of him, but to me he is a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!"

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