WASHINGTON — Two more whistleblowers have come forward to allege that children were mistreated by contractors and senior federal employee managers at a Department Health and Human Services migrant shelter in Fort Bliss, Texas, earlier this year, and also say HHS told them to downplay hundreds of Covid infections among children held at the facility.
“Covid was widespread among children and eventually spread to many employees. Hundreds of children contracted Covid in the overcrowded conditions. Adequate masks were not consistently provided to children, nor was their use consistently enforced,” the whistleblowers, Arthur Pearlstein and Lauren Reinhold, said in a federal whistleblower complaint filed Wednesday
But at the end of their service, they said, federal detailees were regularly given written instructions from HHS public affairs that told them, “when asked, to make everything sound positive about the Fort Bliss experience and to play down anything negative.”
At a town hall with employees, a senior manager from the U.S. Public Health Service refused to share the rate of infections, explaining that he did not want the number to end up reported by the media, they said.
Pearlstein and Reinhold are federal employees who volunteered to be detailed to the shelter when the Biden administration ramped up staffing to accommodate the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border by building emergency intake shelters like Fort Bliss and others.
NBC News previously reported that Servpro, a company that specializes in disaster cleanup and has no child welfare experience, oversaw the care of nearly 5,000 children in Ft. Bliss in early May and June.