HHS Whistleblower Claims Federal Workers Helping Coronavirus Patients Lacked Training & Equipment
A whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services claimed that dozens of workers who received the first Americans repatriated from Wuhan, China were not given proper training or adequate equipment in handling the novel coronavirus.
The House Ways and Means Committee sent letters requesting more information about the whistleblower’s complaint to Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar, the HHS Deputy Inspector General, and the comptroller’s office.
“The report alleges that staff were 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 letter reads.
It continues, “The whistleblower also reported that when staff raised safety concerns, they were ‘admonished by [redacted] for ‘decreasing staff morale,’ accused of not being team players, and had their mental health and emotional stability questioned.'”
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The Washington Post first reported on the whistleblower complaint Wednesday afternoon, noting that lawyers for the whistleblower said the workers did not show symptoms of infections but were not tested for the virus.
One of the lawyers for the whistleblower, Ari Wilkenfeld, told CNN he hopes Congress and the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel will thoroughly investigate the allegations.
“We are hopeful that Congress and the OSC will investigate this case in a timely and comprehensive manner,” Wilkenfeld said. “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.”
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, originated in China and has since spread to 50 countries, including the U.S. There are over 80,000 reported cases and nearly 3,000 associated deaths, the majority of fatalities being in China.
The U.S. has confirmed 60 cases and no deaths. All except one case’s origin could be traced to travel to China and other high-risk areas and household contact with people who traveled to those areas.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC’s website states it is likely the disease will “cause a pandemic” and that “more cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States.”
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