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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Bright Thursday

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.  

Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

Sarah Owermohle and Dan Diamond at Politico:
Ousted federal vaccine expert Rick Bright seized Washington’s spotlight for hours on Thursday, warning mask-clad lawmakers that the Trump administration had failed to prepare for the Covid-19 outbreak and actively misled Americans on its response.
Bright’s testimony represented a critical moment in the virus crisis: He’s the first federal health official to publicly criticize the Trump administration so harshly, and in such detail, given his prominent position in the biomedical world.
Trump defenders were nowhere to be found in the House hearing room because they declined to send someone, giving Bright hours of air time and a news cycle’s worth of headlines.
“I believe Americans need to be told the truth,” Bright testified in a hastily convened House subcommittee hearing — armed with a canister of Lysol wipes and seated next to an attorney. “And I believe that the best scientific advice and guidance was not being conveyed to the American public” in the early days of the pandemic.
Bright’s quotes could easily end up in campaign ads or attacks from Joe Biden, which is why Trump has tried to portray Bright as a disgruntled outgoing employee.
Bright — who alleges that he was abruptly removed as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in April because he opposed political pressures linked to malaria drugs — is the first official to actively undermine the president’s claims that the administration has done a “great job” handling the response.
From his prepared testimony:
In my position as BARDA Director, I led portions of a coordinated response; development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics. In January of this year, I pushed for our government to obtain virus samples from China and to secure more funding for BARDA to be able to get started quickly on the development of critical medical countermeasures. HHS leadership was dismissive about my dire predictions about what I assumed would be a broader outbreak and the pressing need to act, and were therefore unwilling to act with the urgency that the situation required. Understanding that the United States had a critical shortage of necessary supplies and PPE to deal with a pandemic, in January, February and March, 2020, I pushed HHS to ramp up US production of masks, respirators and other critical supplies, such as medicine, syringes and swabs. Again, my
urgency was dismissed and I was cut out of key high-level meetings to combat COVID-19. When I was nevertheless able to convey these urgent concerns by speaking directly with a senior White House advisor and with members of Congress who better understood the urgency to act, I faced hostility and marginalization from HHS officials. And finally, when I resisted efforts to promote and enable broad access to an unproven drug, chloroquine, to the American people without transparent information on the potential health risks, I was removed from BARDA.

While I am unfortunately no longer leading BARDA, I am an expert in these areas and
fully understand the grave risks we are facing. I continue to believe that we must act urgently to effectively combat this deadly disease. Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. While it is terrifying to acknowledge the extent of the challenge that we currently confront, the undeniable fact is there will be a resurgence of the COVID19 this fall, greatly compounding the challenges of seasonal influenza and putting an unprecedented strain on our health care system. Without clear planning and  implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history