Last month, up to 15 agents tested positive for the virus loaded in cars and went to their homes, avoiding thefts after being infected during the preparation of President Donald Trump’s campaign rally, another close source said. of the situation.
And in South Dakota, agents have been on the ground for days to prepare for Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore – but also for what some see as the inevitability that one or more of them will contract the virus.
Thursday morning, a group of about 20 agents made a close visit to the group event, inspecting the seats at the top of the Mount Rushmore amphitheater, the press area and the scene where the president will take the speech. Only two wore masks; a separate group of half a dozen uniformed officers assembling magnetometers at the park entrance wore no masks. But each screener at the entrance was masked hours later.
As Trump and Pence resume regular travel schedules after months of pandemic-induced foreclosure, the risks posed to the large contingent of US Secret Service personnel accompanying them have become apparent, as about two dozen agents – if not more – have been found positive for the virus, said sources close to the situation.
“Even the ardent supporters of Trump are fed up,” an agency source said. “We signed up to take a ball for him, we didn’t sign up to get sick for him for no good reason. ”
In addition to the agents who fell ill, many others were quarantined after contacting others who tested positive, which has strained the agency’s numbers as Trump and Pence continue to plan trips across the country. Each trip requires several teams of agents, who work in rotation to ensure a good rest.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere said the president “takes the health and safety of all those who travel to support himself and the White House very seriously.”
“When planning and executing any trip, White House operations work with the President’s doctor and the White House military office to ensure that the plans incorporate current CDC guidelines and best practices for limiting exposure to COVID-19 as much as possible, “he said in a statement.
Some within the agency have questioned how essential Trump and Pence’s travels are, particularly the campaign events that sources previously described to CNN as partly intended to improve the mood of the president.
Pence’s recent travels have all been focused on the coronavirus – including in the Sunbelt states where cases are increasing – and aides said it was important that the Vice President had a field view of crisis.
The vice president’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from CNN.
“President Trump wanted me to be here to tell you and the people of Arizona that we are with you,” Pence said on Wednesday when he met with the state governor. “We’re going to make sure you have what you need, when you need it, to meet that moment.” ”
But Pence’s trip also has the effect of giving urgency to a response to a pandemic that Trump has been accused of alternately altering and ignoring. And previously, Pence communicated widely with the governors by teleconference.
Duties required of officers often make it difficult to comply with federal guidelines on social distancing, although the agency has stated that it strives to protect its employees.
“The health and safety of our employees, their families and our protégés remain the agency’s top priority,” said Catherine Milhoan, director of secret service communications, in a statement. “The agency continues to operate in accordance with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the United States Bureau of Secret Service, Health and the Environment. ”
Neither Trump nor Pence has publicly commented on the more than two dozen agents who have tested positive. When the news was announced before his event in Tulsa that certain staff and agents had received positive results, the president was furious at having announced it before the rally, overshadowing the event itself.
At least eight secret service agents assigned to Pence’s details before his trip to Arizona this week tested positive for coronavirus just before the vice president went there, a police source told CNN.
It is unclear if there is any overlap with agents from Tulsa and Phoenix.
The positive tests forced a day’s delay in the trip so the Secret Service could trade in a healthy team – Pence was scheduled to travel to Arizona on Tuesday, but instead traveled on Wednesday. Prior to Pence’s trip, the state has recorded records for new daily cases and deaths since it started releasing data in mid-March.
After positive tests, the officers were quarantined at a Phoenix hotel, people familiar with the matter said. Some are symptomatic and are under the care of a doctor, but have not yet been hospitalized, the sources said.
Pence’s trip originally included several additional public stops, including to Yuma, but the trip was cut short in the midst of the recent spate of cases in Covid, Arizona. During his stay, Pence received information and updates from local authorities and did not leave the airport.
It happened more than a week after Trump’s Oklahoma rally, which disappointed the president with low turnout, but nonetheless caused a spate of cases among his staff and secret service details. .
Although the number of publicly disclosed agents who tested positive while working at the Tulsa rally is two, a source familiar with the matter said the actual number was close to 15.
Secret service agents were tested in Tulsa on June 19, one day before the rally, and those who tested positive received their results within 48 hours – meaning some or all of them could have been at the rally itself. even without knowing that they had tested positive. All were retested in Washington six days after the rally.
In order to avoid the planes, officers who tested positive returned to their home bases – including Dallas and Houston – to enter quarantine for at least 14 days. Agents tested negative at Tulsa were also quarantined at home for 14 days; most have now been allowed to return to work this weekend.
In addition to secret service personnel, a number of Trump campaign personnel tested positive for the coronavirus while working on the Tulsa rally. Many campaign managers quarantined after the event as a precaution. All were tested again a few days after the rally.
At least one high-profile supporter of the president who attended the rally, former presidential candidate Herman Cain, was hospitalized after suffering from a coronavirus. His spokesman said it was impossible to know if he had contracted the virus at the rally, where he was seen without a mask.
CNN’s Betsy Klein and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.