In a recent whistleblower complaint, Dr. Richard Bright, who has a PhD in virology, claims that his former boss, Robert Kadlec, a top official for public health preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services, ignored warnings of a coming shortage of masks and other forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early weeks of the coronavirus spread.
As reported by The Intercept, Bright describes Kadlec — who was appointed by Donald Trump — as a “petty tyrant” who not only ignored Bright’s efforts to address the alleged PPE shortage but “mocked” and “thwarted” his calls to action.
“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,” the report reads.
Bright says his bosses were not receptive to his pressure, which included concerns that the short supply of N95 masks — which were allegedly not replenished in Barack Obama‘s final term — could harm health care workers on the front lines of a pandemic. Mike Bowen, co-owner of Prestige Ameritech, the most extensive surgical mask producing company in the U.S., reportedly echoed Bright’s concerns and extended an emergency solution to help the White House replenish its supply of the masks.
According to Bright, Kadlec refused to commit to the emergency proposal.
Amid a shortage of N95 masks, the Trump admin has awarded a $55M mask production contract to Panthera Worldwide LLC, a company that has not had any employees since May 2018, and has no history of manufacturing or procuring medical equipment, the Washington Post reported. pic.twitter.com/jfnvwTsesz
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 21, 2020
Bright claimed that Kadlec’s refusal stemmed in part from pre-existing tension in the relationship. Per The Intercept, Bright says this tension is due to Kadlec’s insistence that he provide government contracts to “politically connected companies,” including those tied to Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
As reported by Business Insider, Kadlec previously awarded Emergent Biosolutions — a company he used to advise, unbeknownst to Congress — with a $2 billion contract. Nevertheless, he claimed his decision was motivated by the interests of U.S. citizens.
“My standing guidance for this contract, and all contracts, is to get the best value and most protection for the American people,” he said in a statement released after his ties to the company went public.
Bright was ultimately moved to a position in the National Institutes of Health, which he believes was due to the congressional funds that were funneled to his office as the pandemic become an increasingly severe issue.
“I pushed for a more aggressive agency response to COVID-19,” Bright said in his complaint. “My supervisor became furious when Congress appropriated billions of dollars directly to my office.”