A coronavirus outbreak has forced more than 130 U.S. Secret Service officers to isolate or quarantine themselves after either testing positive for the illness or coming into close contact with someone who has, The Washington Post first reported on Friday.
The outbreak, reportedly affecting some 10% of the Secret Service’s core workforce, appears to be the latest consequence of President Donald Trump’s refusal to consistently follow basic health and safety precautions during the pandemic.
The New York Times confirmed the outbreak, reporting that at least 30 uniformed officers have tested positive and 60 have been asked to isolate.
The officers who are sick or otherwise forced to stay home generally help protect the White House and the president at events. They have been privately worrying for months about how Trump’s careless attitude toward the deadly virus may be putting their health and the health of their families needlessly at risk. The nature of their jobs, however, does not allow them much say over the president’s behavior.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day on Nov. 3, Trump maintained an often grueling travel schedule as he aggressively campaigned for a second term.
Presidential adviser Hope Hicks and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel became the first in Trump’s inner circle to come down with COVID-19 in the early fall. Hicks’ diagnosis was revealed at the start of October after she traveled with Trump aboard Air Force One to rallies in the Midwest.
Soon after Hicks’ diagnosis was made public, it was confirmed that the president, first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron had caught the virus. The Secret Service to airlift Trump to Walter Reed military hospital for treatment; the president’s doctors said he’d had trouble breathing.
During Trump’s hospital stay, it became clear that a packed Sept. 26 event in the White House Rose Garden likely served as a “superspreader,” with members of Congress and other guests were seen mingling indoors and out for prolonged periods of time without masks.
A series of top Trump staffers ― including campaign adviser Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager Bill Stepien, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, presidential assistant Nicholas Luna, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, adviser Stephen Miller and others ― revealed their diagnoses in the week after the White House gathering, although not all had been present. Christie suffered a particularly alarming bout of COVID-19, which required a hospital stay of about a week.
Trump and the others appear to have made full recoveries. But the experience did not make the Trump White House significantly more cautious about the coronavirus, and more people have paid the price.
As Nov. 3 approached, Trump held as many as five rallies per day in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, traveling thousands of miles by air and road with his team to the events, where scant few people were seen wearing masks or distancing. He visited campaign headquarters in Virginia, greeting people indoors without wearing a mask. On the night of the election, he gathered hundreds of supporters at the White House for an indoor, masks-optional watch party ― another suspected superspreader event.
One prominent attendee, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, announced later that week he had caught the virus, meaning he could have assisted in spreading viral particles throughout election night. At least six lower-level White House staffers tested positive around the same time.
The list got even longer with the additions of Trump political director Brian Jack, presidential adviser David Bossie, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski and Republican National Committee chief of staff Richard Walters in the 10 days since Nov. 3.
Since it became clear the day after the election that Joe Biden was on track to defeat him, Trump has largely stayed holed up in the White House, occasionally venturing out to golf. His schedule has been mostly cleared of public events as he has considered challenges to the election results while posting baseless charges of voter fraud on Twitter.
Early Friday afternoon the White House announced he would make remarks from the Rose Graden at 4 p.m. ET after meeting with officials for an update about the status of development and distribution plans for a coronavirus vaccine.