Whistleblowers: HHS officials told workers to downplay COVID-19 outbreak at migrant detention facility

According to two federal whistleblowers, the Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urged them to actively downplay a known COVID-19 outbreak within a group of migrant children being held at a detention facility in Texas earlier in the year, as Fox News reports.

The allegations were outlined in a complaint filed in late July, which was also sent to government watchdog groups as well as four key Congressional committees, was produced in conjunction with the Government Accountability Project.

The whistleblowers in the matter are Lauren Reinhold and Arthur Pearlstein, both of whom are described in the documents as “career federal civil servants” who worked as “volunteer detailees” at the Fort Bliss migrant intake site from April through June of this year.

Reinhold and Pearlstein claim that COVID-19 was “widespread” among hundreds of the migrant youth housed at the facility and that it was ultimately transmitted to numerous employees. They also allege that “adequate masks were not consistently provided to the children, nor was their use consistently enforced.”

As if those lax protocols were not bad enough, the complaint argues that HHS officials urged Pearlstein and Reinhold as well as other workers to “make everything sound positive” and “play down anything negative” about conditions at the facility in response to media inquiries.

The complaint goes on to allege 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,” according to the Washington Examiner.

Pearlstein, who served as a director at the Federal Mediation and Concilation Service, and Reinhold, who worked as an attorney-adviser at the Social Security Administration indicated that they attempted to have their concerns heard that the sick children on site were wearing ineffective, disposable masks, but that their warnings went unheeded by supervisors.

Other serious problems within the facility, including lice outbreaks, filthy living conditions, and serious depression and depressive episodes among detained children were routinely ignored, according to the pair of whistleblowers, and the complaint argues that the private contractors engaged by the administration to oversee the site had little or no experience working with children and did not demonstrate an appropriate level of competence, the Examiner added.

The accusations leveled by these whistleblowers are just the latest indication of the Biden administration’s egregious failures when it comes to tackling the crisis resulting from the migrant surge, and perhaps this complaint will succeed in drawing attention to the devastating effects of unchecked illegal immigration not just on overwhelmed border communities, but also on the most vulnerable of the recent arrivals themselves.