Although President Donald Trump has made comments on Twitter and during press conferences that imply the U.S. is doing “a very good job” at containing the coronavirus cases in the country, many Americans are beginning to think otherwise. Why? Well, there could potentially be more cases out there that haven’t yet been recorded.
According to CNN, a whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has filed a complaint seeking federal protection after outing the agency for its failure to train and protect its staff members from the coronavirus. The whistleblower alleged that when more than a dozen employees received the first Americans who evacuated from Wuhan, China, they “lacked proper training or protective gear for coronavirus infection control.” The employee said that “staff was sent into quarantined areas ‘without personal protective equipment, training, or experience in managing public health emergencies, safety protocols, and the potential danger to both themselves and members of the public they come into contact with.”
The employee also reported that when staff brought their safety concerns to the attention of their employers, “they were ‘admonished for ‘decreasing staff morale,’ accused of not being team players, and had their mental health and emotional stability questioned,” cites CNN. Aside from this, the female employee seeking federal protection also said that she was unfairly reassigned after raising concerns regarding her safety. The employee has hired an employment law attorney to assist with her case.
Whistleblower Allegations Get Some Pushback
After the HHS employee’s complaint was received, William Walters, who is the executive director and managing director for Operational Medicine in the Bureau of Medical Services at the State Department, gave some pushback on the allegations. Although he did not directly address the specific issues that were outlined in the complaint, says CNN, he did comment on the experience he had “while traveling with personnel to China for the evacuation missions of U.S. citizens from China.” Walters said, “I can speak, having been on those missions, and certainly the first trip out of Wuhan, the second, the third, the Diamond Princess, and based on a relationship that I’ve had with HHS, (Secretary of Defense Mark) Esper and CDC dating back to 2014. Every precaution has been taken.”
Walters was also asked if he witnessed anyone on his team without protective equipment and he replied, “No, I can say unequivocally that everyone involved with those evacuations was appropriately equipped and trained.” While this complaint does need to be investigated to determine whether the allegations made are valid, President Trump has made some moves aimed to manage the coronavirus outbreak that hasn’t officially spread across the U.S.
CNN said that President Trump has assigned Mike Pence’s office to be in charge of the administration’s coronavirus response and Pence will be required to report directly to the President. After that announcement was made, CNN says that Secretary Alexander Azar, the HHS Deputy Inspector General, confirmed that he was “still chairman of the task force.” This raises some concerns as to who is in charge of what and if the crisis is properly being handled.
Updates on the Coronavirus Outbreak
While China has taken a hard hit from the novel coronavirus, it has spread around the globe and continues to infect those it comes in contact with. So far, there are at least 82,000 cases and 2,800 deaths worldwide, cites CNN. Cases have also been confirmed in at least 54 countries. While it is still unclear how active the virus is here in the U.S., Americans are encouraged to continuously check reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for updates.