Rick Bright, ousted director of vaccine agency, warns that administration lacks ‘centralized, coordinated plan’

https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/14/politics/coronavirus-whistleblower-testimony/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0KfVp-njw8vqKFdaLbBC4r4NAx3KeS4rFg2vmFbSneW7PcqOwVYult9rc

Virus whistleblower tells lawmakers US lacks vaccine plan | Where ...

Rick Bright, the ousted director of a crucial federal office charged with developing countermeasures to infectious diseases, testified before Congress on Thursday that the US will face an even worse crisis without additional preparations to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright said. “Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”
Bright criticized the Trump administration for failing to implement a “standard, centralized, coordinated plan” to combat the virus and questioned its timeline for a vaccine. His testimony came a week after filing a whistleblower complaint alleging he was fired from his job leading the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for opposing the use of a drug frequently touted by President Donald Trump as a potential coronavirus treatment.
About an hour before Bright’s hearing, Trump tweeted that he had “never met” or “even heard of” Bright, but considers the NIH senior adviser 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!”
Before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee, Bright urged the Trump administration to consider a number of actions, including increasing production of essential equipment and establishing both a national test strategy and a national standard of procurement of supplies. He calls on top officials to “lead” through example and wear face coverings and social distance.
Bright claimed that the administration missed “early warning signals” to prevent the spread of the virus. He said that he would “never forget” an email from Mike Bowen, the hearing’s other witness and the vice president of the medical supply company Prestige Ameritech, indicating that the US supply of N95, the respirator masks used by health care professionals, was at a perilous level.
“He said, ‘We’re in deep shit,'” testified Bright. “‘The world is.'”
Bright said he “pushed” that warning “to the highest levels” he could at Health and Human Services but received “no response.”
“From that moment, I knew that we were going to have a crisis for health care workers because we were not taking action,” said Bright. “We were already behind the ball.”
In his written statement, Bright blamed the leadership of HHS for being “dismissive” of his “dire predictions.” Bright wrote that he knew the US had a “critical shortage of necessary supplies” and personal protective equipment during the first three months of the year and prodded HHS to boost production of masks, respirators, syringes and swabs to no avail. He alleged that he faced “hostility and marginalization” from HHS officials after he briefed White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and members of Congress “who better understood the urgency to act.”
And he charged that he was removed from his post at BARDA and transferred to “a more limited and less impactful position” at NIH after he “resisted efforts to promote” the “unproven” drug chloroquine.
A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson responded that it was “a personnel matter that is currently under review” but said it “strongly disagrees with the allegations and characterizations.”
Bright is seeking to be reinstated to his position as the head of BARDA. The Office of Special Counsel, which is reviewing Bright’s complaint, has determined that was a “substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” in removing him from his post, according to Bright’s attorneys.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat and the panel’s chairwoman, said Bright “was the right person, with the right judgment, at the right time.”
“We can’t have a system where the government fires those who get it right and reward those who get it completely wrong,” added Eshoo.
In his testimony, Bright also cast doubt on the Trump administration’s goal of manufacturing a vaccine in 12 to 18 months as overly optimistic, calling it “an aggressive schedule” and noting that it usually takes up to 10 years to make a vaccine.
“My concern is if we rush too quickly, and consider cutting out critical steps, we may not have a full assessment of the safety of that vaccine,” Bright said. “So, it’s still going to take some time.”
Some Republicans on the subcommittee said that the hearing shouldn’t have been held at all.
Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, the top Republican on the panel, said “every whistleblower needs to be heard,” but added the hearing was “premature” and a “disservice” to the Special Counsel’s investigation since Bright’s complaint was filed only a week ago.
And Republican Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina claimed that the hearing was not about the whistleblower complaint but “undermining the Administration during a national and global crisis.”
Thursday’s subcommittee meeting comes two days after a blockbuster hearing in the Senate that featured Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci said that access to a vaccine in time for the fall school year would be “a bit of a bridge too far” and warning against some schools opening too soon, which Trump later called “not an acceptable answer.”
Fauci testified from his modified quarantine at home since he had made contact with a White House staffer who tested positive. But Bright appeared masked and in-person for his hearing on Capitol Hill, as did the lawmakers who questioned him. Many members of the House have steered clear of Capitol Hill since the onset of the outbreak, although they are expected to return on Friday to vote on a multi-trillion dollar Democratic bill responding to the crisis.

 

 

Fed chair Powell warns of “lasting” economic damage without more stimulus

https://www.axios.com/fed-jerome-powell-coronavirus-spending-e71d88c5-09ec-4410-b08f-3d4ad6304db0.html

Fed chair Powell warns of "lasting" economic damage without more ...

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Congress may need to do more to prevent a worse economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, in an interview with the Peterson Institute’s Adam Posen on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Powell warned of dire economic consequences without additional stimulus. While the Fed has responded to the pandemic with the most aggressive policy actions in the central bank’s history, it doesn’t have the power to get money directly in the hands of Americans and businesses in the form of grants like Congress does.

The backdrop: The coronavirus has pushed the economy into a downturn not seen since the Great Depression, with a record number of Americans out of work.

  • Congress and the Fed have unleashed trillions of dollars in coronavirus aid to support the economy.
  • House Democrats proposed another $3 trillion in stimulus this week, but more spending is facing resistance from Republican members of Congress.

What they’re saying: “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery,” Powell said.

  • “It’s not the time to prioritize” concerns about fiscal spending, Powell said.

Powell warned about the long-lasting damage a steep, prolonged downturn could have on the economy, including permanent scarring to the most vulnerable workers in the labor force.

  • In a Fed survey set to be released tomorrow, Powell said 40% of people making less than $40,000/year who were employed in February, lost their job in March.

 

 

 

 

I’m a nurse in a Covid-19 unit. My hospital’s leaders frighten me more than the virus.

I’m a nurse in a Covid-19 unit. My hospital’s leaders frighten me more than the virus

As a nurse, my hospital's leaders frighten me more than Covid-19 ...

I’ve been a nurse for almost 10 years, working mainly on a hospital’s cardiac floor.

One day I was assigned to a makeshift intensive care unit that had previously been an observation unit for highly stable patients waiting for test results. Many of the patients in this new Covid-19 unit were intubated, with ventilators breathing for them.

When I started the shift, a trained intensive care unit nurse was crying in the supply closet. She was overwhelmed and anxious, hadn’t worked on her familiar unit in weeks, and had been told that her next shift would be an overnight one — and she had no choice in the matter.

Many of us don’t have a choice. We are assigned to work in unfamiliar units, with patients who are outside our expertise, without any training. We’re lost.

Most shifts start with nurses crying. Most shifts end that way too.

“It’s out of our hands,” we hear from hospital administrators.

Nurses who typically work in outpatient clinics are being sent to inpatient floors and assigned to care for patients who are acutely ill. Many haven’t worked at the bedside in decades. The number of patients who have fallen in this unit has risen exponentially in the past two weeks due to lack of training of outpatient nurses.

I wonder if the patients know their nurses are overwhelmed, and that many of them are scared they’ll make a deadly mistake.

“Everyone is out of their comfort zone, just hang in there,” we’re told.

Doctors have been instructed not to enter patients’ rooms unless they must as a way to minimize their exposure to the virus that causes Covid-19 while nurses go from one room to the next, medicating, bathing, turning, and comforting their patients without changing their uncomfortable personal protective equipment, since supplies are limited. This work can take hours. It is not uncommon for nurses to go all day without drinking water or eating because that would mean removing our protective gear.

During one of my shifts, a doctor at my hospital posted several TikToks he made while sitting at the nurses’ station of a busy Covid-19 unit as nurses whispered words of encouragement to patients clinging to life supported by ventilators. Over our words and the hum of the ventilators, I wondered if our patients heard music coming from this doctor’s TikToks.

“We hear your concerns, but there’s nothing we can do,” doesn’t reassure or encourage us.

One day as I worked in the makeshift ICU, one of the hospital’s leaders went floor to floor making an important delivery. She approached our nursing station in her crisp professional attire and fresh disposition, and proudly delivered a supply of makeup-removing wipes. She told us to use the wipes to clean our faces before putting on our N95 masks so we could reuse the masks later, then moved on to the next nurses’ station without asking how our staff was doing or if we needed anything. I wonder if she had noticed the nurse crying in the supply closet.

“That’s above us, we don’t make those decisions,” is passing the buck at its worst.

Excuses from hospital administrators seem to have punctuated every shift for the past six weeks. The praise and applause from hospital leadership only go so far.

I can read in my co-workers’ faces and hear from the stories they tell that the biggest danger we face is not Covid-19. It’s the hospital’s administration.

Leadership is failing us, even as we stand firm in not failing our patients. We care for your loved ones, Covid-19 or not, monitor their vital signs, give them medications, rub lotion on their backs, help them to the bathroom, and brush their hair. We FaceTime their families from our personal phones so they can see their loved ones fighting to live. This is important care that nurses are proud to provide.

The narrative is simple. Nursing, and nurses, are not valued. It’s a shame, and maybe even a deadly shame, that hospital leaders don’t care about nurses like we care for our patients.