News & Politics

Whistleblower Says HHS Officials Sent Workers to Handle Wuhan Evacuees Without Protective Gear or Training

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in Washington, about the federal government's response to a virus outbreak originating in China that has has sickened thousands of people and killed more than 100. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A whistleblower has filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel alleging that Health and Human Services Department officials sent workers to process evacuees from Wuhan, China, without proper training or protective gear.

Wuhan is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

The whistleblower also alleges that HHS dismissed her concerns and she was threatened with the loss of her job if she didn’t accept reassignment.

Fox News:

“We are hopeful that Congress and the OSC [the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel] will investigate this case in a timely and comprehensive manner,” the whistleblower’s attorney, Lauren Naylor, told Fox News, adding that the team could not provide a public copy of the complaint. “This matter concerns HHS’s response to the coronavirus, and its failure to protect its employees and potentially the public. The retaliatory efforts to intimidate and silence our client must be opposed.”

The American evacuees were in quarantine at the time, but the workers who were potentially exposed to the virus were allowed to interact with the public. Did HHS violate its own protocols? Did HHS have any protocols in place?

Politico:

The complaint alleges that teams from HHS’ Administration for Children and Families were deployed to air force bases from Jan. 28-31 and Feb. 2-7 to receive Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China — the center of the virus outbreak — and that HHS officials broke protocol and ignored concerns about coronavirus exposure in the process.

The whistleblower also says that the workers were not consistently tested for the virus after being exposed. This is the sort of stupidity that leads to epidemics.

An HHS spokesperson said whistleblower complaints are taken very seriously, and that the department is “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.”

Two people with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO the whistleblower’s claims were accurate.

Naturally, Democrats pounced.

Reports of the complaint outraged some on Capitol Hill, and at least one lawmaker, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), called on HHS Secretary Alex Azar to resign Thursday night.

“Allowing HHS workers to be exposed to Wuhan evacuees without adequate protection is gross mismanagement that jeopardizes American lives,” Markey wrote on Twitter. “We need someone in charge who will rise to the level of responding to this threat.”

Some small-minded stupid bureaucrat goofs up and then panics when his monumental errors are pointed out to him, threatening to fire the underling who tried to do the right thing. Except, in this case, we’re not talking about a paperwork snafu or even malfeasance. This is out and out stupidity. Whoever sent those workers to handle possibly infected Americans without proper training or protective gear and then allowed them to go their way and mingle with the general population needs to be fired.