September 19, 2021

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Migrant child coronavirus outbreak: Whistleblowers say they were told to downplay infections at Fort Bliss – Fox News

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Two federal whistleblowers are alleging that Department of Health and Human Services instructed them to downplay a coronavirus outbreak amongst migrant children being housed at a facility in Fort Bliss, Texas, earlier this year, according to a complaint filed Wednesday. 

The complaint, which was sent to four Congressional committees and government watchdogs, was filed by the nonprofit Government Accountability Project on behalf of Arthur Pearlstein and Lauren Reinhold – who they say are “career federal civil servants” and “whistleblowers” who “served as volunteer detailees at the Fort Bliss Emergency Intake Site from April through June 2021.” 

“COVID was widespread among children and eventually spread to many employees. Hundreds of children contracted COVID in the overcrowded conditions,” the complaint says. “Adequate masks were not consistently provided to children, nor was their use consistently enforced.” 

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The complaint added that “regularly, when detailees reached the end of their term, a sheet was passed around with detailed instructions from the HHS Public Affairs Office on how, when asked, to make everything sound positive about the Fort Bliss experience and to play down anything negative.” 

The complaint also said “every effort was made to downplay the degree of COVID infection at the site, and the size of the outbreak was deliberately kept under wraps.” 

“At a ‘town hall’ meeting with detailees, a senior U.S. Public Health Service manager was asked and refused to say how many were infected because “if that graph [of infections] is going to The Washington Post every day, it’s the only thing we’ll be dealing with and politics will take over, perception will take over, and we’re about reality, not perception,’” it claimed. 

The manager at the Fort Bliss site reportedly “also dismissed a detailee’s concern that the children in the COVID tents were wearing basic disposable masks instead of N95 masks. 

“The manager said N95 masks were unnecessary for the infected – even though uninfected detailees were working with the infected children,” the complaint said. 

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The Government Accountability Project says “Pearlstein was primarily assigned to work on two teams while at Fort Bliss: performing clinical assessments on the Clinical Assessment Team; and working with small groups and individual children on the Mental Health/Wellness team,” while Reinhold “worked in the girls’ tent for the first half of her detail; and, during the second half, was on the Call Center Team, and worked in all tents.” 

Fox News has reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services for comment. 

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