A United States agency review has shed light on the early missteps of the administration in repatriating individuals in January from Wuhan, China, to March Air Reserve Base in California.
While the summary report makes clear that all individuals coming back from Wuhan were asymptomatic, it echoes some of the concerns raised in February by a whistleblower.
The report was sent to Congressional offices on Friday.
What the report says: According to the summary of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of General Counsel’s investigation obtained by CNN, the state of California was going to handle the repatriation of individuals from Wuhan — but at the last minute, it was decided the facility they were going to use was “medically inadequate.”
HHS stepped in, but according to the report, “there was no designated agency or official leading the repatriation effort.”
As a result, appropriate safety protocols were not followed at March Air Reserve Base, according to the report.
Without clear instruction or adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), some officials “were forced to use Riverside County California’s PPE.” The report does say that no one who had come from Wuhan at March tested positive for Covid-19.
Other issues at March involved the fact that food distributors were not wearing PPE, and were at times within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of repatriated individuals from Wuhan, according to the report.
“According to multiple interviewees, ACF [Administration for Children and Families] also directed HHS personnel to remove PPE to avoid ‘bad optics.’ Finally, according to multiple eyewitness accounts, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] lead at March repeatedly interacted closely with evacuees without donning appropriate PPE,” the report said.
However, the HHS summary of the IG report says HHS personnel in Washington took prompt action. The report also states that “problems identified above did not reoccur during the Travis deployment.” American evacuees returning home were also quarantined at Travis Air Force Base in California.
“Although there has been anecdotal evidence of breaches of PPE protocol at Travis, it appears that those breaches were the result of individual mistakes,” the report said.
The report also notes that no U.S. Government personnel involved in the March repatriation and quarantine tested positive for or contracted Covid-19 as result of that deployment.
CNN has contacted HHS for comment.