But it forgot to give them proper training for public health emergencies. Or proper protective clothing. And then it let them back into the general population without testing them for coronavirus.
That is the accusation leveled by a senior HHS official based in Washington who has filed an official whistleblower complaint after she was allegedly reassigned for raising concerns about the administration’s lack of proper procedure.
According to the complaint, more than a dozen staff members from HHS’ Administration for Children and Families department traveled to Travis Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base in late January and early February to meet passengers who had been evacuated from Wuhan.
The officials were ordered to enter quarantined areas, including a hangar where coronavirus evacuees were being received, the complaint said, adding that the officials were not provided safety-protocol training until five days into their assignment.
While they did not display any symptoms of the virus, the workers were never tested for coronavirus before being allowed back into the general population.
“I soon began to field panicked calls from my leadership team and deployed staff members expressing concerns with the lack of HHS communication and coordination, staff being sent into quarantined areas without personal protective equipment, training or experience in managing public health emergencies, safety protocols and the potential danger to both themselves and members of the public they come into contact with,” the whistleblower wrote.
When the whistleblower raised her concerns with her superiors, she was “improperly” reassigned and told on Feb. 19 that if she didn’t accept the new position within 15 days she would be terminated.
The complaint, first reported by the Washington Post and since confirmed by CNN and the New York Times, was filed on Wednesday with the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal watchdog agency and shared with Congress.
The OSC confirmed it has received the complaint and assigned the case.