The US Department of Health and Human Services instructed its agents to conceal the actual scale of the coronavirus outbreak among children held at a facility in Fort Bliss, Texas, at the beginning of this year, according to an appeal, submitted on Wednesday to four congressional committees and government watchdogs.
The paper cites two whistleblowers, Arthur Pearlstein and Lauren Reinhold, who were said to be “career federal civil servants”, and “served as volunteer detailees at the Fort Bliss Emergency Intake Site from April through June 2021”.
The whistleblowers alleged that usually, as they completed their tasks, the HHS Public Affairs Office would give them a paper instructing them to “make everything sound positive about the Fort Bliss experience and to play down anything negative” when asked.
They also pointed out that, “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 US 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 document reads.
Aside from that, the manager at the Fort Bliss establishment allegedly didn’t pay attention to the fact that “children in the COVID tents were wearing basic disposable masks instead of N95 masks” and said that infected children don’t need N95 masks “even though uninfected detailees were working with the infected children”.
“COVID was widespread among children and eventually spread to many employees. Hundreds of children contracted COVID in the overcrowded conditions,” the complaint reads.
The document also contained other complaints related to irregularities at the facility. In particular, the authors mentioned managing problems, including a lack of clean underwear and unqualified employees working on children’s mental and emotional health.
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