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Over 100 Secret Service officers infected with COVID-19 or isolating

Kevin Johnson

Ledyard King
 
| USA TODAY

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WASHINGTON – More than 100 U.S. Secret Service officers are either infected with the COVID-19 virus or been told to quarantine because of close contact with someone who has, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.

While the total was not broken down by infection and quarantine, the person who is not authorized to comment publicly said the number skewed largely to quarantine as a precaution because of the officers’ past contacts.

The number included only those who are part of the service’s 1,600-member Uniformed Division, which generally has the most contact with the public as they perform screening at events and patrol the White House grounds. The source declined to comment on the number of infections and quarantines within the corps of agents, including those in the Protective Division who maintain the closest contact with the president and other top White House officials.

The Washington Post first reported the infections and quarantines among service officers, indicating that the number was more than 130.

The reports come at the end of the campaign season, in which the Secret Service has provided security at a series of campaign rallies hosted by President Donald Trump and lower-profile events for President-elect Joe Biden.

All service employees who were assigned to the campaigns are being tested, the source said, adding that staffing levels are high enough to account for illness and isolation requirements. 

Trump had 10 rallies during the two days before the election, speaking to large crowds – many of them maskless and packed close together – in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tested positive last week. Meadows was present with Trump when he visited his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., on Election Day and was seen not wearing a face mask. He was also in attendance at a White House gathering that evening and came into contact with Trump family members, according to reports.

More: If the president engages in risky behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, can the Secret Service – or anyone – stop him?

The Secret Service, in a Friday statement, declined to address the specific number of employees who had been sidelined, citing “operational” concerns.

“The health and safety of our workforce is paramount for the Secret Service and, as such, we continuously assess the requirements necessary to operate during the pandemic and ensure we remain prepared and fully staffed to carry out our critical integrated protective and investigative missions, neither of which has been degraded by the pandemic,” the agency said.

The agency said it “successfully carried out its protective obligations associated with the presidential campaign’ while adhering to testing and contact tracing protocols when suspected cases arise.

More: Contact tracing and visualizing the people exposed to COVID-19 by Trump outbreak

More: Poll: Most Americans disapprove of Trump’s decision to hold massive campaign rallies during COVID-19 pandemic

“This program ensures that every precaution is taken to keep our protectees, employees, families, and the general public, safe and healthy,” the agency said.

News of the infections comes as coronavirus cases are surging across the nation and states are considering tougher measures to enforce social distancing.

Just a few weeks ago, Trump invited dozens of politicians and high-profile dignitaries to the White House Rose Garden on Sept. 26 to introduce Amy Coney Barrett as his pick to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Many at the gathering did not wear masks, and social distancing was not apparent. Audience members sat in chairs packed next to each other, and some of them exchanged hugs.

After that, the president and at least seven others tested positive for COVID-19 in what Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called a “superspreader event.”

Former Secret Service directors W. Ralph Basham and Lewis Merletti told USA TODAY last month the White House medical office is responsible for providing advice and recommendations on the potential threat posed by disease and other health issues, which are factored into the overall security plan. Basham said the security and health challenge posed by the coronavirus is unprecedented.

“We are in uncharted waters,” said Basham, who served as director from 2003 to 2006. “We haven’t seen anything like this before.” 

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