SACRAMENTO, Calif — A government whistleblower has filed a complaint alleging that federal workers did not have the necessary protective gear or training when they were deployed to help victims of the coronavirus evacuated from China.
The Washington Post broke the story Thursday afternoon after the paper obtained a copy of the complaint. The whistleblower's complaint deals with Health and Human Services Department employees sent to Travis and March Air Force bases in California to assist evacuees from China.
One of the two bases, Travis Air Force Base, is about eight miles from NorthBay VacaValley Medical Center where a Solano County woman who recently tested positive for the coronavirus was initially treated for flu like symptoms.
The woman is likely the first U.S. case with no known travel links, contracting the virus from the community. She is currently being treated at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
Lauren Naylor, an attorney for the whistleblower, told ABC News, "The senior health official was alarmed because those staff members then moved freely in and around the airbase... and was silenced when raising concerns."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged the complaint, saying it takes it very seriously. Meanwhile, the Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates personnel issues, confirmed Thursday it has received the complaint and is investigating.
Dr. Christopher Braden with the CDC said at a Thursday press conference in Solano County that there's no indication that evacuees would have crossed paths with the woman.
Solano County health officials defended the quarantine efforts of federal health care workers.
"I have actually never worked with a more meticulous group of people," Dr. Bela Matyas, Solano County Public Health Officer. "I mean, they were scary meticulous, and so the likelihood that that would happen is low to being with. But it would be also no explanation whatsoever for this patient, because this is a random individual in a community of 450,000."
Still, Naylor said the whistleblower's claim must be investigated thoroughly.
"This matter concerns HHS’s response to the coronavirus, and its failure to protect its employees and potentially the public," Naylor said. "The retaliatory efforts to intimidate and silence our client must be opposed."
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