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Oscar D. Grouch
Posted: Friday, February 28, 2020 4:32:01 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/26/2014
Posts: 931
Neurons: 1,323,879
U.S. workers without protective gear assisted coronavirus evacuees, HHS whistleblower says

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint.

The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS.

The whistleblower is seeking federal protection, alleging she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated.

The whistleblower has decades of experience in the field, received two HHS department awards from Azar last year and has received the highest performance evaluations, her lawyers said.

The complaint was filed Wednesday with the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent federal watchdog agency. The whistleblower’s lawyers provided a copy of a redacted 24-page complaint to The Washington Post. A spokesman for the Office of the Special Counsel confirmed that it has received the complaint and assigned the case.

The complaint alleges HHS staff were “improperly deployed” and were “not properly trained or equipped to operate in a public health emergency situation.” The complaint also alleges the workers were potentially exposed to coronavirus because appropriate steps were not taken to protect them and staffers were not trained in wearing personal protective equipment, even though they had face-to-face contact with returning passengers. The workers were in contact with passengers in an airplane hangar where evacuees were received and on two other occasions: when they helped distribute keys for room assignments and hand out colored ribbons for identification purposes.

In some instances, the teams were working alongside personnel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in “full gown, gloves and hazmat attire,” the complaint said.

“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 said.

The whistleblower, in her complaint, states that “appropriate steps were not taken to quarantine, monitor, or test [the workers] during their deployment and upon their return home.” The repatriated Americans were among those evacuated from Wuhan and quarantined on military bases in California and Texas because they were considered at high risk for contracting the flu-like illness.

About 14 personnel from the Administration for Children and Families, or ACF, were sent to March Air Force base in Riverside County, Calif., and another team of about 13 ACF personnel were sent to Travis Air Force in Solano County, Calif., according to the complaint and the whistleblower’s lawyer, Ari Wilkenfeld. In Solano County this week, the first U.S. patient was confirmed to be infected with coronavirus who did not travel to a region where it is spreading or have known contact with someone diagnosed with the disease.

Several people within HHS voiced objection to sending the ACF personnel to receive passengers, according to a person familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
Ashwin Joshi
Posted: Saturday, February 29, 2020 4:43:09 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/3/2016
Posts: 1,612
Neurons: 86,015
Location: Jandiāla Guru, Punjab, India
Such a dangerous recklessness result in colossal loss of life and materials, which are capable of ruining small nations. History is replete with examples of tiny mistakes turning catastrophic. Little sparks from...a smoldering cigarette butt...dropped by human or animal burnt large property in Australia and unprecedented forest wealth.

While it is a well-known fact that the spark that lit the fire of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, perhaps not many know of the goof-up that led to his assassination, and murder of the world at large.

On a fateful day, two assassination attempts were directed at the Archduke and in both of them, his chauffeur’s role was pivotal. The first attempt failed, thanks to his chauffeur’s success at deflecting the bomb that the assassins had thrown at the Archduke’s carriage. The explosion claimed numerous lives, but the Archduke and the duchess were saved.

The duke, later on, expressed his desire to meet the victims, and while on the way to the hospital, a wrong turn taken by the chauffeur changed the course of history. The turn led them straight towards one of the assassins, Gavrilo Princip, who had been hiding in a coffee shop when he saw the car approaching. Princip fired two shots- the duke and the duchess dropped dead- World War I set off.

Even tiny mistakes can turn on a catastrophe.

We should learn from history.

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