WASHINGTON — Multiple members of the U.S. Secret Service have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to Department of Homeland Security documents reviewed by Yahoo News.
In March, the Secret Service, which is responsible for the protection of President Trump and other leaders, acknowledged that a single employee tested positive in March. However the problem is currently far more widespread, with 11 active cases at the agency as of Thursday evening, according to a daily report compiled by the DHS.
This report comes as a pair of cases among White House staffers close to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have put the West Wing’s coronavirus security procedures in the spotlight.
According to the DHS document, along with the 11 active cases there are 23 members of the Secret Service who have recovered from COVID-19 and an additional 60 employees who are self-quarantining. No details have been provided about which members of the Secret Service are infected or if any have recently been on detail with the president or vice president.
The DHS, which oversees the agency, referred all requests for comment to the Secret Service, which in turn declined to comment on the number of coronavirus cases among its employees.
“To protect the privacy of our employee’s health information and for operational security, the Secret Service is not releasing how many of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19, nor how many of its employees were, or currently are, quarantined,” Justine Whelan, a Secret Service spokesperson, said.
A Secret Service agent stands guard as President Trump and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane arrive at the White House. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
While the Secret Service is best known for providing security to the president and vice president, it also protects other leaders, including presidential candidates, former presidents, and visiting dignitaries. The Secret Service also conducts investigations, including most recently, scams involving the coronavirus.
Whelan said the Secret Service is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, but she declined to comment on how many of the Secret Service employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus worked at the White House complex.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, the Secret Service has been working with all of our public safety partners and the White House Medical Unit to ensure the safety and security of both our protected persons and our employees,” Whelan said. “The Secret Service continues to follow guidance issued by the CDC to ensure the health and welfare of our employees and those they come in contact with.”
Members of the Secret Service outside the West Wing of the White House. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
However, the coronavirus measures at the White House complex, which includes both Trump and Pence’s offices, have not necessarily followed the guidelines from the CDC or the president’s own coronavirus task force. Those guidelines include staying 6 feet away from other people, avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks or other face coverings.
On Monday, Yahoo News reported that there are regularly held large events with unmasked attendees in close quarters at the White House — including inside the Oval Office, which is the president’s inner sanctum. Many Secret Service employees on the White House grounds are among those who are not wearing masks. The agency did not respond to questions about why its employees are not wearing masks or whether personal protective equipment is being provided to members of the Secret Service who request it. Pence and Trump have also regularly opted not to wear masks.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere responded to questions about coronavirus protocols in the West Wing last week by saying, “Those in close proximity to the president and vice president are being tested for COVID-19.”
“Temperature checks are occurring for all those entering the complex as well as an additional temperature check for those in close proximity to the president and vice president,” Deere said.
While temperature checks were being administered to everyone entering the White House complex, not everyone who entered the Oval Office with the president was given a test. On multiple occasions last week, reporters were brought into the Oval Office without being given tests or being required to wear masks.
Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care physician who worked in the Obama administration as director of policy for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, said she believes the partial testing for those in the White House complex is not sufficient.
“Having worked in the White House, there’s a ton of people that come in and out of there, and they touch things,” said Patel, a Yahoo News health contributor. “So, unless you are literally testing every individual and then following up … even with wiping down those surfaces every night, it’s not foolproof.”
In the days since that report, multiple COVID-19 cases have been confirmed within Trump’s inner circle. On Thursday, news broke that one of Trump’s military valets tested positive. According to CNBC, the valet “had very close contact with the president, including serving meals and helping him with his clothes and other personal needs.”
After the news emerged about his valet, Trump told reporters that the White House had only been testing on a weekly basis and would increase the number of tests given to key staffers.
“So we test once a week. Now we’re going to go testing once a day, but even when you test once a day, somebody could — something happens where they catch something,” Trump said.
On Friday, another top staffer tested positive for the coronavirus. Speaking at a meeting with Republican lawmakers in the White House State Dining Room, Trump indicated the staffer was Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller.
“She’s a wonderful young woman, Katie,” Trump said. “She tested very good for a long period of time and, all of a sudden today, she tested positive. She hasn’t come into contact with me.”
Miller is the wife of Stephen Miller, who is one of the president’s closest advisers. The Millers did not respond to requests for comment.
Marc Short, chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence confers with Katie Miller, Pence’s press secretary. (Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images)
The White House declined to comment on whether Stephen Miller had tested negative or was being quarantined. Deere, the deputy press secretary, provided a new statement saying, “The President’s physician and White House Operations continue to work closely to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the President, First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy at all times.”
“In addition to social distancing, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitizer, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces, every staff member in close proximity to the president and vice president is being tested daily for COVID-19 as well as any guests,” Deere said.
Yet even after the pair of coronavirus cases among the Trump administration staff, not everyone who gets in a room with the president is being tested. The press that covered the event where Trump discussed Miller’s diagnosis was brought into the State Dining Room without being given tests. One of the untested reporters asked Trump for a reaction to the fact the virus is apparently spreading inside the White House, which is ostensibly one of the safest places in the country.
“It could happen anywhere,” Trump said. “You see where it happens.”
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