The rigours of protecting a president, vice president, and their families during an election year in the midst of a pandemic placed a heavy burden on the Secret Service, with nearly 900 employees testing positive for the coronavirus, according to a watchdog group this week.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington chastised former President Donald J. Trump for continuing to hold large campaign rallies, which they claimed contributed to the infections.
It obtained the Secret Service data from the federal government as part of a Freedom of Information Act public records request. According to the group, the cases were recorded from March 2020 to March of this year, but the data did not include details about the assignments of the infected agents. The government also did not say how many of the total number of Secret Service employees were infected with the virus.
According to the group, the employees who tested positive included 477 special agents, 249 uniformed division members, and 131 administrative, professional, and technical staff members. The Secret Service is the primary federal law enforcement agency in charge of protecting U.S. political leaders and their families, including the president.
“Throughout the pandemic, then-President and Vice President Trump and Pence held large-scale rallies against public health guidelines, and Trump and his family made repeated protected trips to Trump-branded properties where the then-President was making millions of dollars a year,” the group wrote on its website on Tuesday. The group also accused the former president of riding in a vehicle with Secret Service protection while undergoing treatment for a coronavirus infection last October, “further endangering agents.”
Mr. Trump’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night.
In an emailed statement on Wednesday, a Secret Service spokeswoman said the agency had distributed masks, gloves, and other protective gear to employees, as well as conducted a thorough virus testing programme. She went on to say that the agency’s mission “required significant public interaction during a public health crisis,” and that it was “fully prepared and staffed to meet these challenges.”
According to several people briefed on the situation at the time, the Secret Service’s uniformed officer division experienced a coronavirus outbreak last November. The outbreak was at least the fourth to hit the Secret Service since the pandemic began, with at least 30 uniformed Secret Service agents testing positive for the virus over a period of several weeks. The agency had asked about 60 officers to go into quarantine.
The virus infiltrated the West Wing in the final months of Mr. Trump’s presidency. Hope Hicks, his adviser; Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary; and two of Ms. McEnany’s deputies, Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt, all tested positive.