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National News

Many on Trump's Secret Service Detail Told to Self Quarantine After Tulsa Rally

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Many on Trump's Secret Service Detail Told to Self Quarantine After Tulsa Rally

2020-06-26 18:45:04

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump's Tulsa Rally (Image source: Screenshot)

We are now seeing the after-effects of Donald Trump's poor decision on holding a large rally in the midst of an era already crippled with COVID-19 infections. After two secret service agents tested positive for the virus that day, there are dozens of Secret Service officers and agents who are being asked to self-quarantine.

This was a rally that Trump insisted on holding, despite being asked not to do so because of the dangers of large public gatherings in the age of coronavirus. Not only did he hold the rally anyway, the president, and many in his crowd, did not wear masks. No one was social distancing.   But they could have, as the venue was only about one-third filled.

The Secret Service instructed its employees who worked at the Tulsa rally to stay home for two weeks after they returned from Oklahoma, according to two people familiar with the situation.

All told, six Trump staff tested positive for coronavirus just hours before the start of the rally. Two more staff tested positive after the return to Washington Sunday.

The Secret Service field office in Tulsa arranged on Tuesday for a special testing session at a hospital to determine if local agents had picked up the virus while working the rally, according to two others with knowledge of the situation. Doctors administered the test to agents and local officials in parked cars outside the hospital.

U.S. Attorney R. Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma was tested. He attended both pre-planning meetings with the advance staff and the rally itself in case legal issues came up. He tested negative, according to spokeswoman Lennea Montandon.

It's not known at this point how the rally may have affected Tulsa's case count, which was already on the rise. On Wednesday, Tulsa County hit a new record with 259 new confirmed cases. Bruce Dart, the director of Tulsa's Health Department, said this is part of "steep upward trends" across the state.

The actions of the Secret Service this week is evidence of why it was a poor choice for Trump to insist on holding the rally. It put a health burden on those assigned to protect him.

While not commenting on how many employees have tested positive or been quarantined, a Secret Service spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan said the rally had not affected the abilities of the agency. "The U.S. Secret Service remains prepared and staffed to fulfill all of the various duties as required," she said in a statement.

Milhoan added, "To protect the privacy of our employees' 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."

White House spokesman Judd Deere was also not forthcoming about the effects of Trump's decision. He did, however, promise in a statement that "the president takes the health and safety of everyone traveling in support of himself and all White House operations very seriously."

Deere added, "When preparing for and carrying out any travel, White House Operations collaborates with the Physician to the President and the White House Military Office to ensure plans incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible."

Before the rally started last Saturday, the campaign learned of the six who had tested positive for COVID-19. This included an advance agent and a Secret Service officer who were screening attendees.

Though the Secret Service employees who tested positive didn't attend the rally, other Secret Service staff who were at the Friday meeting with them continued with their duties. This included agents who work closely with Trump, according to two people briefed on the arrangements.

"The entire team should have been switched out," said one person familiar with Friday's meeting. "They were all exposed."

However, after the six positive cases were announced, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said, "No COVID-positive staffers or anyone in immediate contact will be at today's rally or near attendees and elected officials."

A former Secret Service supervisor said Trump's choice to hold the rally displayed a lack of concern for the safety of this staff.

"Here the law-and-order president is putting his law enforcement team at risk — and it's something they can't see," said the former supervisor. Several former agents added that quarantining so many agents after the trip also puts a strain on the Secret Service, as it leaves other agents and officers to replace them while they are supposed to be off duty.

Dart announced before the rally that he was worried it could become a "super spreader" event and recommended it be postponed. Confirmed cases rose 92 percent the week prior to the event. Hospitalizations rose 133 percent among the 18-to-35 age group.

The Tulsa Health Department director did not say whether there were confirmed cases linked to the rally or the street protests around the event. But the department is recommending that anyone who attended get tested and monitor themselves for symptoms.

"It's still too soon to know the outcome from these events," said Dart.

He also noted that over the past month, the actual spread of COVID-19 has extended what they had seen in modeling. "We're finding that the reality's actually worse than what the models were showing us could possibly happen."

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum (R) said city officials are discussing possibly putting new restrictions on gatherings and setting rules about wearing masks, as "what we've been doing to date, the numbers are showing, just isn't working."

Even though Dart said it's still too soon to find out if the rally led to more spread of the virus, Bynum said, "It's not from people going to protests or to rallies — it's from people going to weddings and funerals and family gatherings and bars and other things like that that are causing the uptick." 

By his way of thinking, gatherings of 15, 30, 100, etc., are causing the virus to spread. But a gathering of 6,200 is not causing the spread.

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