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HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A government whistleblower says the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen federal health workers to receive the first American evacuees from China amid the coronavirus outbreak without proper medical training or ample protective gear, the Washington Post first reported.

What they're saying: The whistleblower's complaint filed Wednesday alleges that employees were "not properly trained or equipped to operate in a public health emergency situation," potentially exposing them to the novel coronavirus.

  • The whistleblower also said she was "unfairly and improperly" reassigned after raising concerns about the situation. Per the Post, she was told on Feb. 19 that she must accept a new position within 15 days or be terminated.
  • According to the whistleblower's lawyers, she has decades of experience, received two HHS awards from Sec. Alex Azar in 2019 and has earned strong performance evaluations.

The state of play: Personnel from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) were deployed to receive evacuees in California, with roughly 14 ACF officials sent to March Air Force Base between Jan. 28-Jan. 31 and approximately 13 sent to Travis Air Force Base between Feb. 2-Feb. 7. The dates of the deployments align with the dates that the first and additional planeloads of evacuees arrived at the respective bases.

  • Per the Post: "Several people within HHS voiced objection to sending the ACF personnel to receive passengers, according to a person familiar with the conversations."

Azar said at a hearing on Thursday that if untrained personnel were exposed to the coronavirus, he'd "want to know the full facts, and we’d take appropriate remedial efforts."

  • “We take all whistleblower complaints very seriously and are providing the complainant all appropriate protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act," HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said. "We are evaluating the complaint and have nothing further to add at this time.”

The big picture: Reports of the complaint came one day after the CDC detected the first possible community spread of coronavirus in the U.S.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Schumer pushes for doomed filibuster changes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Democratic caucus Tuesday night he plans to propose instituting a one-time "talking" filibuster requirement, and bypassing the 60-vote threshold for major legislation, to pass the party's election reforms package via simple majority.

Why it matters: While Schumer acknowledged both votes are expected to fail — and some vulnerable Democrats up for re-election feel it will put them in a tough spot — he argued it's worth putting members on the record for historic legislation.