Secret Service struck again by coronavirus outbreak

Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times

Posted at Nov 14 2020 12:35 PM | Updated as of Nov 14 2020 04:06 PM

Secret Service struck again by coronavirus outbreak 1
Two members of the Secret Service Counter Assault team on the grounds of the White House in Washington, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. At least 30 officers in the agency’s Uniformed Division have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks. Another 60 or so were asked to isolate. Doug Mills, The New York Times/File

WASHINGTON — The Secret Service’s Uniformed Division has sustained 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 pandemic began, further hobbling its staffing as it continues to provide full protection to President Donald Trump and prepares for the number of people it is charged with protecting to grow because of the election of Joe Biden.

At least 30 uniformed Secret Service officers have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, and the agency asked about another 60 to quarantine, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing personnel matters. At least a handful of agents also tested positive or were forced to isolate, two of the people said.

The Washington Post first reported the outbreak.

It was unclear how the officers contracted the virus. Many traveled to Trump or Biden campaign events in the final weeks of the election, the people said. Several senior White House officials and Trump allies also contracted the virus after attending an election night party at the White House.

A spokeswoman said the Secret Service kept up its duties during the campaign season and that it 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 the spokeswoman Julia McMurray.

Officers in the Uniformed Division have different responsibilities from the famed Secret Service agents who guard presidents and their families. The officers provide protection for physical locations like the White House and the vice president’s home at the Naval Observatory in Washington. They also screen crowds at public events.

The latest outbreak comes at a time when the Secret Service’s resources are already stretched. During a transition, the agency is expected to provide more protection for the president-elect and vice president-elect and their families while continuing its regular duties of protecting the president and his family.

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