The United States health workers who were assigned to meet the first cohort of evacuees from the coronavirus (COVID-19) hit Wuhan city in China were themselves exposed to the deadly virus, a whistleblower has alleged.
The Department of Health and Human Services didn't provide protective gear to the workers or give them any infection-related training, a senior HHS official has alleged in a complaint filed with the Office of the Special Counsel, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
About 27 people from the Administration for Children and Families team were sent to two different military bases to meet the evacuees, the Post noted.
The official informed others within the department, including those in the office of Health Secretary Alex Azar, that the health workers were exposed to the coronavirus, but no action was taken, according to the Post.
Instead, the official was "involuntarily assigned to a position in a subject matter where she has no expertise," her lawyer alleged in the complaint, per the Post. The whistleblower was threatened with termination if she didn't accept the new post within the next 15 days.
"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," a lawyer for the whistleblower told the Post.
Why It Matters
At least 60 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S., including 45 from the evacuees alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday confirmed the first case in the country where the patient didn't have any history of travel to the affected countries or contact with another confirmed patient.
The public health institute said the case confirmed in California points to a possibly "community spread" within the U.S.
The announcement came hours after President Donald Trump assured citizens that the risk to American citizens from the coronavirus "remains very low."