In the wake of the US presidential election and US President Donald Trump’s 11th-hour rush to hold as many rallies as possible before the day of decision, more than 130 Secret Service officers have reportedly been put into quarantine, either with COVID-19 symptoms or for close contact with someone who has them.
Three people familiar with agency staffing told the Washington Post on Friday that Trump’s election rally blitz, which included 14 rallies in the three days prior to the November 3 vote, resulted in as many as 130 members of his security staff contracting or being suspected of contracting the novel coronavirus.
The Post further noted the pandemic has sidelined 10% of the Secret Service’s entire force.
To give an example of the manpower Trump’s rally blitz demanded: on November 2, the day before the election, Trump had five separate rallies in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Kenosha, Wisconsin; and Michigan’s Traverse City and Grand Rapids. At each of those events, Trump dispatched several dozen Secret Service agents to screen spectators and secure the perimeter prior to the president’s arrival.
In all, Trump hit 17 rallies in eight states in the four days before the election.
Of course, Joe Biden has his own Secret Service detail as well, but the now-president elect made eight smaller stops during that time, and his events aren’t known for proudly flouting safety recommendations by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A study published on October 31 by four Stanford University economists traced outbreaks in locales across the country that corresponded to the time and place of Trump rallies between June and September to roughly 30,000 COVID-19 cases and 700 deaths.
The virus is spreading through the White House staff again as well. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump advisers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie have also come down with the illness. The presidential mansion has hosted numerous events in recent months at which mask-wearing, while mandated by District of Columbia law in public places, has nonetheless been scarce at best.
Trump put Secret Service staff at even greater risk last month when, during his stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for having contracted COVID-19 himself, insisted on being taken for a ride outside the hospital to wave at supporters.
The news comes amid the largest COVID-19 outbreak yet in the United States. On Thursday, the CDC reported 143,000 new cases and noted the seven-day moving average of new daily cases was 121,496. That’s nearly double the previous highest peak on July 24, when the seven-day average was 66,960 cases per day.
Deaths, too, have spiked, with 1,479 deaths reported across the US from COVID-19 on Thursday and a seven-day average of 1,134 deaths. Since Election Day, 1.13 million new cases have been reported in the US, and 10,686 people have died from the illness.