Top brass ordered to “play down” a child migrant COVID-19 outbreak despite “gross mismanagement” of tent shelters hosting hundreds of unaccompanied minors, according to a pair of whistleblowers who briefly worked at a Fort Bliss facility in El Paso, Texas.

The nonprofit Government Accountability Project filed the complaint on behalf of Arthur Pearlstein and Lauren Reinhold, described as “career federal civil servants” and “whistleblowers.” They “served as volunteer detailees at the Fort Bliss Emergency Intake Site from April through June 2021,” Washington Examiner reported.

“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.”

The complaint continued 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 added, “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.”

Pearlstein, a director at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and Reinhold, an attorney-adviser at the Social Security Administration, cited a U.S. public health service manager stating, “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.’”

The site is managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s responsible for the care of migrant children undergoing immigration proceedings.

Pearlstein, Reinhold, and others stated they attempted to raise concerns that the sick children were using “basic disposable masks” rather than N-95 masks but that their concerns were “dismissed” by higher-ups. In addition, according to the complaint, migrant minors in the military installation were also confronted with a lice outbreak, which was also ignored by officials.

According to a pair of whistleblowers, one of the most serious issues was the manifestation of major “depressive episodes.”

“Major depression and depressive episodes were commonplace among the children,” the report said. “Mr. Pearlstein personally interviewed or worked with dozens of children who had symptoms of serious depression, including some who expressed suicidal thoughts. Many of his colleagues did as well.”

The complaint claimed that in May, male temporary tenants in the tents, which were “filthy” with “food” and “wet spots” on the floor, broke in a riot.

“Toward the end of May, there were riots in some of the boys’ tents,” the whistleblowers said. “Ms. Reinhold witnessed security contractors surrounding a tent during one incident. Detailees were never briefed about the riots or trained how to act in the event a riot broke out.”

Reinhold said she saw construction workers “lewdly and loudly” gawking at what she assumed were young migrant girls as they made their way to a food tent, which she described as “disturbing.”

When approached by Fox News for a response to the whistleblower’s report, a Department of Health and Human Services official stated Thursday that “the care and well-being of children in our custody continue to be a top priority for HHS.

“Currently, children at the Emergency Intake Site at Fort Bliss meet with a case manager weekly and we have close to 60 mental health and behavioral counselors on site working with the children,” the spokesperson added. “It remains our policy to swiftly report any alleged instances of wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities.”

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