More than 130 Secret Service agents have reportedly been infected with coronavirus or forced to go into quarantine, with the outbreak reportedly connected to Donald Trump’s busy campaign travel schedule and lack of mask wearing within the White House.
As the Washington Post reported (via the Press Herald), the spread of the virus has forced roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team onto the sidelines. The report noted that the officers infected or in quarantine are ones who protect the White House or guard Trump himself when he is on the road. As the newspaper added, the outbreak is linked at least in part to the busy schedule of crowded rallies for the president, which included a flurry of events in the final days before the election, many of them without requirements for social distancing measures like wearing masks.
The Washington Post noted that Trump held a total of 10 rallies within the last two days of the race, requiring large numbers of agents to protect him. The campaign schedule for November 2, for example, required five separate groups of officers to visit each location to screen spectators and secure perimeters.
The report added that many close to Trump expressed concern about his lack of precaution against spreading the virus, even when he was in the hospital being treated for his own infection.
“But many of Trump’s own choices put his protection team at heightened risk, specifically his choice to travel out of state and hold large public events,” the outlet noted. “Secret Service agents and medical professionals were shocked early last month when Trump — then being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for the coronavirus — insisted on taking a ride outside the hospital to wave to supporters from inside a government sport-utility vehicle. He wore a cloth mask, but many feared he was unnecessarily endangering the Secret Service agents inside the vehicle.”
Some have now raised concerns about what the large number of sidelined staff members could mean for security.
“Being down more than 100 officers is very problematic,” a former senior supervisor with the agency told the Washington Post. “That does not bode well for White House security.”
The outlet added that the surge in cases among those guarding the president comes at the same time that a number of top Republican allies have tested positive for coronavirus, including many who attended campaign events or the Election Day gathering. That includes chief of staff Mark Meadows and key adviser Corey Lewandowski.
Officials are investigating whether the members who tested positive or have been forced to go into quarantine were infected during travel or through their work at the White House, where staff reportedly rarely wear masks.