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A plane carrying American passengers who were recently released from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, arrives at Travis Air Force Base in California on Feb. 16.

WASHINGTON — A whistleblower alleges that some federal employees were sent to work at coronavirus quarantine locations in California without adequate safety protocols and then flew back home on commercial airplanes, according to a person familiar with the complaint against the Department of Health and Human Services.

The complaint, which HHS said it was evaluating, focuses on some employees who work at the Administration for Children and Families, or ACF, an HHS division that handles programs such as Head Start and disaster emergency response and that performed functions at some of the quarantine camps. The U.S. repatriated Americans from China on planes chartered by the State Department in early February. They were subject to 14-day quarantines.

Employees didn’t receive prior safety training relevant to the California assignment, according to the person familiar with the complaint. One employee who declined to go to one of the quarantine sites said she was then reassigned, the person said. The employees weren’t tested for the coronavirus before they left two California quarantine sites, the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside and Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, and flew home, the person familiar with the complaint said. There is no evidence that any of the workers contracted or spread the virus.

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

An expanded version of this report appears on

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