The mother of a 7-month-old enrolled at a child care center at Marine Corps Base Hawaii has filed a complaint over the facility’s policy of having “family-style” dining during meals, saying adult caretakers do not wear face masks while eating with the children.

Melissa Martin, the boy’s mother and a Defense Department employee, filed a prohibited personnel practices complaint Nov. 22 with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, alleging the practice constitutes a “substantial and specific danger to public health,” Stars and Stripes reported.

Marine Corps officials say the policy is meant to teach children healthy eating habits and social skills, and that while staff don’t wear masks they have modified aspects of meal times to practice social distancing and safety.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii military housing.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii military housing. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

However in her complaint Martin alleged she saw a staff member “sitting immediately next to an infant, facing each other, with her mask off.”

When Martin raised concerns about what she saw with base officials, she received an e-mail telling her that the base’s medical officer did “not see this as a concern as the children are with these adults all day long. It only becomes an issue if workers or children come to the CDC when they are not feeling good.”

Martin wrote in her complaint to the Special Counsel that “the very notion that this Public Health Officer spoke on behalf of the base commander and endorsed chronic and potentially fatal health and safety violations cannot go unreported.”

The Pentagon restricts local commanders in Hawaii from discussing rates of COVID-19 infections on military bases. While the Hawaii state health officials get numbers on infections among military personnel and family members, those numbers are not disclosed to the public.

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