Whistleblower: HHS Actions on Virus Were Dangerous

Complaint says staffers met evacuated Americans from China with no protective gear
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2020 9:41 AM CST
Whistleblower: HHS Staffers Potentially Exposed to Virus
In this Jan. 29, 2020, photo, passengers board buses after arriving on an airplane carrying U.S. citizens being evacuated from Wuhan, China, at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif.   (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

Another whistleblower complaint is in the news, this time about the coronavirus. A high-ranking official in Health and Human Services says her superiors blew it when they sent HHS staffers to meet American evacuees being returned from China in late January and early February, reports the Washington Post. The staffers were not properly trained and wore no protective equipment even though they had face-to-face contact with the returning Americans, according to the complaint filed with the independent Office of Special Counsel for investigation. The whistleblower says none of the HHS staffers were subsequently tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to return to work as normal. Politico reports that two people knowledgeable about the situation say the complaints are accurate.

"Our client was concerned that [Administration for Children and Families] staff—who were potentially exposed to the coronavirus—were allowed to leave quarantined areas and return to their communities, where they may have spread the coronavirus to others," says Lauren Naylor, one of the lawyers for the whistleblower. The whistleblower is a supervisor in the ACF, a unit of HHS. She says she was reassigned when she raised her concerns and is now seeking whistleblower protection. Her complaint says that when HHS staffers met the returning Americans at US air bases, they worked with CDC workers who wore "full gown, gloves, and hazmat attire." Asked about the allegations Thursday during a congressional hearing, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, "I'm not aware of any violation of quarantine or ... isolation protocols," per CBS News. (More coronavirus stories.)

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