Whistleblower Details How HHS Officials Refused to Secure N95 Masks as Pandemic Loomed - 2020-05-07
A whistleblower complaint filed earlier this week partially solves the mystery of how the country with the most expensive health care system on earth wound up unable to provide enough face masks to protect its workers. The report from Rick Bright, who was ousted from his job as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a division of Health and Human Services, in April, also provides a new villain in the tragic saga of the Trump administration's mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis: Robert Kadlec.
Though officially tasked with quickly mobilizing a national response to public health crises, Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response and formerly Bright's boss, is described in the report as a petty tyrant who ignored, mocked, and thwarted Bright's repeated efforts to address the imminent shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment in January and February, as the virus began spreading across the country.
In a lengthy, detailed account that reads like a script from a horror movie and will likely earn Kadlec the lasting enmity of everyone who has lost a front-line worker to the virus, Bright lays out a series of unsuccessful and increasingly desperate attempts to push Kadlec and HHS Secretary Alex Azar to recognize and address the looming shortage of personal protective equipment. The attempts to call attention to the crisis began in mid-January, when Bright, a virologist who has spent decades in government preparing for public health emergencies, called for a senior-level meeting to coordinate the response to the coming pandemic.