US health workers dealing with coronavirus ‘did not have proper training or protective gear’

Health workers dealing with evacuated Americans held in coronavirus quarantine in California did not have proper training or protective gear and moved on and off military bases, a whistleblower has claimed. 

One Federal employee is even said to have stayed in a nearby hotel before leaving on a commercial flight, according to a report seen by The New York Times. 

A complaint was said to have been filed Wednesday with the Office of the Special Counsel.  It concerns more than a dozen Department of Health and Human Services workers who worked at two military bases in California dealing with Americans evacuated from China in late January and early February. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday confirmed an infection in California in a person who reportedly did not have relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient. The case emerged near the Travis Air Force Base, where part of the whistleblower report is focused.

The whistleblower, a senior leader at the health agency, wrote they ‘soon began to field panicked calls from my leadership team and deployed staff members’.

They say health workers ‘expressed concern’ about ‘staff being sent into quarantined areas without personal protective equipment, training or experience in managing public health emergencies, safety protocols’.  

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Two government chartered Boeing 747-400F cargo plane are seen parked at Travis Air Force Base after unloading some Americans evacuated from Wuhan on February 5

In this image from a video taken on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, U.S. passengers who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess and officials wait for the takeoff of a Kalitta Air airplane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo

In this image from a video taken on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, U.S. passengers who evacuated off the quarantined cruise ship the Diamond Princess and officials wait for the takeoff of a Kalitta Air airplane bound for the U.S., at Haneda airport in Tokyo

A Solano County, California resident who is the first confirmed case of the Coronavirus COVID-19 that was 'community acquired' has been held in isolation while undergoing treatment at the UC Davis Medical Center, pictured, for the past week

A Solano County, California resident who is the first confirmed case of the Coronavirus COVID-19 that was ‘community acquired’ has been held in isolation while undergoing treatment at the UC Davis Medical Center, pictured, for the past week

The report says the lack of training and protective gear means the workers pose a ‘potential danger to both themselves and members of the public they come into contact with’. 

‘They were potentially exposed to coronavirus; appropriate measures were not taken to protect the staff from potential infection; and appropriate steps were not taken to quarantine, monitor or test them during their deployment and upon their return home’, it adds.  

The Americans evacuated from coronavirus hotspots were sent to Travis Air Force Base and March Air Reserve Base. 

It was not until five days after coming into contact with those being held there in quarantine that training in safety protocols was given, according to the whistleblower.    

T facility at Travis Air Force Base where the Department of Defense provided temporary lodging support for Americans evacuated from China

T facility at Travis Air Force Base where the Department of Defense provided temporary lodging support for Americans evacuated from China

The Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed the existence of the report. 

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs told The New York Times: ‘We take all whistle-blower complaints very seriously and are providing the complainant all appropriate protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act.’

They added: ‘We are evaluating the complaint and have nothing further to add at this time.’ 

The virus has now infected more than 82,000 people globally and is worrying governments with its rapid spread beyond the epicenter of China.  

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