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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

Trump's Republican critics rake in cash

Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger during the first Jan. 6 hearing. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Republican critics of Donald Trump have raked in campaign cash this year as their votes to impeach the former president and investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have put them in the crosshairs of Trump and his allies.

Why it matters: The 2022 midterms won't just determine which party controls Congress. They're also shaping up to be a test of Trump's continued hold on the GOP. The few remaining Republican dissenters in Washington need to put up big fundraising numbers if they hope to stave off a purge.

The Republicans' mixed mandate message

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans have expressed selective rage amid the rise of the Delta variant: They rail against the return of indoor masking but are far less vocal about vaccine requirements.

Why it matters: Masking may help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but the real solution to the pandemic is getting more Americans vaccinated. Increased support for that — including the use of heavier-handed methods like mandates — will only increase its chance of succeeding.

Mitch’s Sinema secret

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging his fellow Republicans to buck up Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — a Democrat, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans view Sinema and her moderate Democratic colleague Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as their last line of defense against sweeping progressive laws — ranging from a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill to potentially irreversible structural changes like eliminating the filibuster and adding new states to the union.