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Hutchinson native Rick Bright has made his hometown proud before.


In 2017, according to the Hutchinson News, the government official and pandemic expert “was awarded a place on Hutchinson High School’s Wall of Honor, and he was honored in the homecoming parade.”


Now, after having been ousted from his role as director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, Bright is making all of Kansas proud again. He is raising the alarm about the darkest possibilities of the coronavirus pandemic, especially without an effective government response.


"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," he said in testimony delivered Thursday to a U.S. House panel.


Bright was reassigned to a different job, he says, after urging that the government be better prepared for the outbreak and raising questions about hydroxychloroquine, a possible treatment for the virus once touted by President Donald Trump.


He filed a whistleblower complaint against the government and made his discontent public, distinguishing him as one of the few public health officials to publicly stand at odds with the Trump administration. The reluctance of others to speak out makes sense — saving lives is more important than quibbling about the words the president uses, for example.


But the administration hasn’t yet ousted doctors Anthony Fauci or Deborah Birx.


For now, the most important thing Bright can do — the most essential role he can play — is to say loudly and in public what many of his peers are likely saying privately. That is, there is little evidence of an overarching federal plan to take on the disease, that officials ignored clear warning signs in the early months of 2020, and that we are all at risk over the next year without a coordinated policy response.


If Bright’s warnings turn out to be overstated or incorrect, perhaps we will have to revisit this editorial. But few sunny predictions about the spread of the coronavirus have come to pass. We should be grappling with dire scenarios, without the rose-tinted glasses.


If such efforts allow us to avoid the worst, then Bright has performed an astonishing service. For Hutchinson, for Kansas, for the United States, and for the world.