HHS deployed personnel from the Administration for Children and Families, who have little to no experience in infection prevention protocols, to help process repatriated citizens at quarantine sites.
Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers from the Administration for Children and Families, or ACF, 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.1
The complaint painted a grim portrait of agency staff members who found themselves on the front lines of a frantic federal effort to confront the coronavirus without proper training, and whose own health concerns were dismissed by senior administration officials as detrimental to staff “morale.” They were “admonished,” the complaint said, and “accused of not being team players.”2
The complaint asserts 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.2
The deployments took place Jan. 28 to 31, around the time when the first planeload of evacuees arrived at March, and Feb. 2 to Feb. 7, during the time when additional flights were arriving at Travis. The planes each carried about 200 Americans who were repatriated from Wuhan.
After their deployments, the ACF workers returned to their normal duties, some taking commercial airline flights to return to their offices around the country, the lawyers said.1
“Our client was concerned that ACF staff — who were potentially exposed to the coronavirus — were allowed to leave quarantined areas and return to their communities, where they may have spread the coronavirus to others,” said Lauren Naylor, one of the whistleblower’s lawyers.1
ACF personnel typically deal with supporting people recovering from natural disasters, such as floods and fires, and helping victims apply for temporary assistance, all of which are under the category of human services, the whistleblower’s lawyers said. HHS officials broke established protocols for emergency support by sending ACF workers to a health emergency, for which they have no training.1
1. U.S. Workers Without Protective Gear Assisted Coronavirus Evacuees, HHS Whistleblower Says Washington Post
2. U.S. Health Workers Responding to Coronavirus Lacked Training and Protective Gear, Whistle-Blower Says New York Times