Bright Congress

Rick Bright will warn Congress of ‘darkest winter in modern history’ without ramped up coronavirus response – CNN

(CNN)Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of a key federal office charged with developing medical countermeasures, will testify before Congress on Thursday that the Trump administration was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic and warn that the the US will face “unprecedented illness and fatalities” without additional preparations.

“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,” Bright is expected to say Thursday, according to his prepared testimony obtained by CNN. “Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.”
Bright is set to testify Thursday morning before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee after he filed a whistleblower complaint last week alleging he was removed from his post in retaliation for opposing the broad use of a drug frequently touted by President Donald Trump as a coronavirus treatment.
Bright will reiterate that he believes he was removed from his post because he “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.”
Bright is seeking to be reinstated to his position as the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the Office of Special Counsel, which is reviewing Bright’s complaint, has determined there is reason to believe his removal was retaliatory and is recommending he be reinstated during its investigation, according to Bright’s attorneys.
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.”
Expanding on his whistleblower complaint, Bright is expected to testify that he sought to warn his superiors about potential shortages of critical medical supplies earlier this year, but that his “urgency was dismissed” and that he “faced hostility and marginalization from HHS officials” after conveying his concerns about shortages to a senior White House official, Peter Navarro.
“As I reflect on the past few months of this outbreak, it is painfully clear that we were not as prepared as we should have been. We missed early warning signals and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook,” Bright will testify, according to his written testimony.
In his written testimony, Bright also calls for several key steps to improve the federal government’s response to the pandemic and head off a spike in cases in the fall, including increasing public education of preventative measures, ramping up production of essential medical supplies and developing a national testing strategy.
“The virus is out there, it’s everywhere. We need to be able to find it, to isolate it and to stop it from infecting more people,” Bright plans to say. “We need tests that are accurate, rapid, easy to use, low cost, and available to everyone who needs them.”

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China Congress

China Sets Date for Congress, Signaling Coronavirus Is Under Control – The New York Times

The Communist Party is eager to use its most important political spectacle to project confidence in the face of economic challenges and foreign criticism.

Credit…Wang Zhao/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Keith Bradsher

BEIJING — China delivered its strongest statement of confidence yet that it has tamed the country’s coronavirus epidemic, announcing on Wednesday it would hold a much-delayed top political gathering late next month and ease quarantine restrictions in the capital.

The most important event on China’s political calendar, the annual session of the National People’s Congress will provide the Communist Party with a platform intended to inspire national pride and reassert its primacy. The gathering of top officials from across China will also allow the party to demonstrate unity at a time when many in North America, Europe, Africa and Australia are highly critical of China’s initial efforts to conceal the severity of the outbreak.

“The narrative is that the Chinese way of doing things, the China model, is better than other countries in controlling the virus,” said Willy Lam, a specialist in Beijing politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “This is a symbolic event, showing China has won the war.”

The congress is largely ceremonial, with delegates gathering every year to rubber-stamp major decisions. But the decision in February to delay this year’s session came as a shock to many in China, and sent a global signal of the seriousness of the epidemic. Even during the SARS outbreak in 2003, the annual legislative session went ahead as scheduled.

But the outbreak in China has subsided in recent weeks, with most cases coming from travelers returning from abroad. On Wednesday, only one case of local transmission was reported.

The announcement that the congress was scheduled for May 22 suggests that officials feel assured that the gathering can be held without placing the central leadership and delegates at risk.

The government did not say how this year’s meeting would be conducted. But in past years, it has drawn nearly 3,000 delegates from every province, including officials, party members, army generals in olive green and a smattering of representatives of ethnic minorities in traditional dress. They have assembled in tight rows on the main floor of the cavernous Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square to attend carefully scripted meetings.

The congress will portray Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, as firmly in charge, said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political scientist at Hong Kong Baptist University. Mr. Xi mostly disappeared from public view during the worst days of the outbreak in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged.

By holding the session, “he wants to show again he’s very much in the saddle,” Mr. Cabestan said.

In another sign that the government wants to project confidence in its strategy to tame the virus, the authorities in Beijing said on Wednesday that most domestic travelers arriving in the city would no longer be required to spend two weeks in quarantine. Quarantines will now be limited to people coming from overseas or from areas in China with recent cases, such as Hubei Province and its capital, Wuhan.

But the situation in China remains far from normal. The country has almost completely closed its borders and halted nearly all international flights in recent weeks, preventing many of its own citizens from coming home. China has urged foreign governments not to transfer diplomats to Beijing.

China has already acknowledged that the epidemic has set off the country’s worst slowdown in nearly half a century, with the economy shrinking 6.8 percent in the first three months of the year compared with a year ago. The figure highlights the impact of China’s drastic efforts to stamp out the coronavirus, which included a lockdown that expanded to cover half the population and the temporary closure of factories and offices across the country.

Mr. Xi struck a cautious but optimistic tone on Tuesday about the country’s resolve to restore normal business activity in the world’s second-largest economy.

“Thanks to our strenuous efforts, we have emerged from the most challenging time,” Mr. Xi told the president of Nepal in a phone conversation, according to the Foreign Ministry. “Yet we remain soberly aware of the situation.”

“We have every confidence that China’s economic fundamentals underpinning long-term growth remain solid,” he was described as saying.

China is practically alone among major countries in not having begun an extensive government spending program as an economic stimulus in response to the pandemic, even as the entire economy has slowed sharply and appears to suffer from continued weakness in consumer spending. One popular theory for why China has not yet acted is that it may be waiting for the congress to approve a comprehensive spending plan.

“This is a very important legal issue: Any important stimulus needs to be sealed by the congress,” said Yu Yongding, a senior economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The standing committee of the congress, which announced the opening date, did not say how long the session would last. Recent annual sessions have lasted about two weeks. Health concerns might yet shorten this year’s event.

The meetings are usually staid affairs in which the premier delivers an annual work report that in past years has provided a target for the Chinese economy’s full-year growth. Economists expect that the economic growth target for this year is likely to be considerably below the usual 6 percent or so, if one is set at all.

This year’s agenda is also likely to be focused on helping the country weather the impact of a possibly lengthy global recession triggered by the pandemic.

One key sign of how the government plans to address the downturn will be seen in the annual government budget, which may include economic stimulus measures.

Also on the agenda is a plan to overhaul China’s laws for the handling of public health emergencies, including statutes on wildlife trade — which has drawn criticism for its links to disease outbreaks — and biosecurity.

The epidemic not only set back the country’s economic activity, but also placed in jeopardy Mr. Xi’s pledge to eradicate rural poverty this year. The government will most likely use the legislative session to reaffirm its commitment to this goal, on which Mr. Xi has staked his legacy.

  • Updated April 11, 2020

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • When will this end?

      This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • How does coronavirus spread?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Is there a vaccine yet?

      No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.

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