The Secret Service was hit again by the coronavirus outbreak.
WASHINGTON - The Secret Service's Patrol Division has survived a coronavirus outbreak, according to four people who were informed of it, a final blow to a beleaguered agency that had struggled to carry out its duties during the pandemic.
The outbreak was at least the fourth blow to the agency since the pandemic began, making staffing even more difficult as it continues to provide full protection to President Donald Trump and prepares to increase the number of people it must protect with the election of Joe Biden.
At least 30 uniformed Secret Service members have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, and the agency has quarantined another 60, according to people who spoke anonymously because they did not want to be identified when staffing issues were discussed. At least several of the agents also tested positive or were forced into quarantine, two of them said.
The Washington Post reported the outbreak for the first time.
It was not clear how the officers had been infected with the virus. Many came to campaign events in Trump or Biden in recent election weeks, people said. Several senior White House officials and Trump allies also contracted the virus after attending an election night party at the White House.
The secretary said the Secret Service continued to perform its duties during the election season and took precautions, including testing, contact tracing and isolation of people as necessary to respond to COVID-19.
"The health and safety of our employees is of paramount importance," said spokeswoman Julia McMurray.
Officers in armed forces units have different duties than the famous Secret Service agents who guard presidents and their families. Officers provide protection to facilities such as the White House and the Vice President's House at the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C. They also provide protection to crowds at public events.
The latest outbreak comes at a time when Secret Service resources are stretched thin. During the transition period, the agency is expected to provide greater protection to the President-elect and Vice President and their families, while continuing its regular responsibilities to protect the President and his family.
Two members of the Secret Service strike team at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. At least 30 officers from the agency's Special Forces unit have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks. About 60 more were asked to be isolated.
photo by: Doug Mills