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Whistleblower: Federal health workers responding to coronavirus did not have proper training

Catherine Garcia

Federal health employees who met coronavirus evacuees at two California military bases earlier this year did not receive proper training in safety protocols until five days after their arrival, a whistleblower said.

The New York Times obtained a portion of the whistleblower's complaint, which said the workers also did not have adequate protective gear. The whistleblower, described as being a senior leader at the Department of Health and Human Services, submitted the complaint to the Office of the Special Counsel.

The whistleblower said the workers were "improperly deployed" to March Air Reserve Base and Travis Air Force Base. They went into the quarantined areas where the evacuees were being processed and then would walk around other areas of the base. At least one worker stayed at a nearby hotel and flew back home on a commercial flight, and only a few knew that they needed to monitor their temperature three times a day.

The whistleblower said that throughout the operation, he or she fielded "panicked calls" from deployed staffers who "expressed concern with the lack of HHS communication and coordination." When senior Trump administration officials later heard their concerns, the staffers were "admonished," the whistleblower said, and had their "mental health and emotional stability questioned." The staffers believe the administration is trying to "whitewash" what happened, the whistleblower continued, and won't listen to their health and safety concerns.

Travis Air Force Base is in Solano County in Northern California. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first known instance of a person in the United States testing positive for coronavirus without traveling abroad or having known exposure to someone with the virus. The patient lives in Solano County, and the CDC said it is possible they came in contact with a person who caught coronavirus abroad and came to the United States infected.

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