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Whistleblower claims HHS did not train workers caring for coronavirus patients: report

A whistleblower claims the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from China during the coronavirus outbreak without proper training or protective gear, The Washington Post reported Thursday. 

The complaint was reportedly filed Wednesday with the Office of the Special Counsel. 

The whistleblower is a senior HHS official based in Washington seeking federal protection after alleging they were unfairly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers, according to the Post. 

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The workers did not show symptoms and were not tested for the virus, the Post reported, citing the whistleblower's lawyers.

The U.S. evacuated hundreds of Americans from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. It has since spread globally.

“I soon began to field panicked calls from my leadership team and deployed staff members expressing concerns with the lack of H.H.S. 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, according to a portion of the complaint obtained by The New York Times.

“We take all whistleblower complaints very seriously and are providing the complainant all appropriate protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act. We are evaluating the complaint and have nothing further to add at this time,” HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley told the Post.

The complaint added to questions about the administration's response, which has set off concern among lawmakers in both parties.

Other incidents under scrutiny include the decision to fly home sick passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship on the same plane as healthy ones, over the objections of the CDC.

The first case of possible spread among the general public on Wednesday also prompted questions after the hospital treating the patient said the CDC had initially declined to test the person because the patient did not meet the criteria the agency had.