The workers deployed by the Department of Health and Human Services to assist American passengers from a flight evacuated from Wuhan amid the coronavirus outbreak were “not properly trained or equipped to operate in a public health emergency situation,” according to a whistleblower complaint. The plane, which was chartered by the U.S. State Department, carried the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan and arrived in California on Jan. 29. The whistleblower is reportedly a top HHS official who manages employees at the Administration for Children and Families—the unit that sent 14 workers to receive the passengers. The whistleblower, who says she initially complained to HHS but was then transferred to another position, alleges in the complaint that the ACF personnel were not tested for the virus and may have been exposed to it. One of the whistleblower’s lawyers, Ari Wilkenfeld, said she was “involuntarily assigned to a position in a subject matter where she has no expertise” after she voiced her concerns to the HHS. She was also informed that she would be fired if she did not “accept involuntary reassignment,” according to the complaint.
“We are hopeful that Congress and the OSC will investigate this case in a timely and comprehensive manner,”a lawyer for the whistleblower, Lauren Naylor, said in a statement. “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.”