Feb 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Sen. Ron Wyden asks HHS how agency employees are tested for coronavirus

In this image, Azar sits
HHS Secretary Alex Azar testifies on the agency's FY2021 budget on Feb. 27. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, told Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday that he was alarmed by a whistleblower's recent allegations that federal personnel received U.S. evacuees from the coronavirus outbreak in China without adequate protective gear or training.

Driving the news: Vice President Mike Pence replaced Azar as the administration's point person for handling the coronavirus this week.

What he's saying: Wyden, in a Friday letter, said "it is particularly concerning that ACF human services personnel, with limited or no public health or health care background, were sent to quarantine sites without guidance, training, or information."

  • He asked Azar for details on HHS protocols for deploying medical and agency personnel to quarantine centers that readmit U.S. citizens and whether the agency is ensuring that all HHS employees potentially exposed to the coronavirus are being tested for it.
  • HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Flashback: Democratic 2020 contenders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have denounced President Trump's response to the crisis and his budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control.

Read Wyden's full letter:

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