WASHINGTON – The uniformed division of the Secret Service has suffered a coronavirus outbreak, according to four people briefed on the matter, the latest blow to a beleaguered agency that has faced challenges in performing its duties during the pandemic .
The outbreak is at least the fourth to strike the agency since the start of the pandemic, further hampering its staff as it continues to provide full protection to President Trump and prepares to increase the number of people quitting. ‘she is responsible for protecting because of the election of Joseph. R. Biden Jr.
At least 30 uniformed Secret Service officers have tested positive in recent weeks for the virus, and the agency has asked about 60 others to be quarantined, according to people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified to discuss personnel matters. At least a handful of officers have also tested positive or have been forced to self-isolate, two people said.
The Washington Post first reported the outbreak.
It is not known how the officers contracted the virus. Many have been to the events of the Trump or Biden campaign in the final weeks of the election, the people said. Several senior White House officials and Trump allies also contracted the virus after attending a White House election night.
A spokesperson said the Secret Service had maintained its duties during the election season and was taking precautions, including testing, contact tracing and isolating people as needed, to respond to Covid-19.
“The health and safety of our workforce is paramount,” said spokesperson Julia McMurray.
The uniformed division officers have different responsibilities from those famous Secret Service agents who guard presidents and their families. The officers protect physical locations like the White House and the Vice President’s home at the Washington Naval Observatory. They also filter crowds at public events. The division – which has 1,600 officers – has been widely criticized after fence jumpers violated White House grounds during former President Barack Obama’s second term.
Many officers and agents have privately expressed concerns in the final weeks of the presidential race about travel for campaign events across the country. They feared they could contract the virus during the events or while traveling, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The pandemic has been particularly trying for law enforcement officials whose officers come into direct contact with people to do their jobs. In the first months of the outbreak, one in six New York Police Department officers were ill or in quarantine.
The pandemic has created unique problems for the Secret Service as the nature of its work – particularly during a presidential campaign – requires the agency to deploy its agents across the country, including at events hosted by Mr. Trump where distancing social was rarely practiced and worn out. masks were not necessary.
In the most glaring example of the dangers officers faced, Mr. Trump held a rally in June in an indoor arena in Tulsa, Okla. One of Mr. Trump’s allies who attended the event, Herman Cain, died from the virus six weeks after joining him.
In August, at least 11 employees of the Secret Service training center in Maryland tested positive for the virus. The agency closed the facility earlier in the year to develop procedures to mitigate transmission of the coronavirus. But several trainees have reportedly contracted the virus during training exercises and at a nearby hotel where they did not practice social distancing.
Earlier this summer, two Secret Service members sent to provide security at the Tulsa rally tested positive. Around the same time, Vice President Mike Pence canceled a trip to Florida after members of his team exhibited symptoms of the virus.
The latest outbreak comes at a time when Secret Service resources are already exhausted. During a transition, the agency is expected to offer more protection to the president-elect and vice-president-elect and their families while continuing its usual duties of protecting the president and his family.
While hospitalized for the coronavirus in October, Mr. Trump asked an officer to lead him past a group of supporters outside the hospital. Medical experts said Mr. Trump was likely contagious at the time, and officers who were in a Chevy Suburban hermetically sealed with him could easily have been infected, even though they were covered in the same type of equipment. personal protection used by healthcare professionals.
Annie Karni contributed reporting.