Many More Secret Service Employees Tested Positive for COVID-19 Than Previously Known
A report from a nonprofit group shows nearly 900 cases in the first year of the pandemic.
Almost 900 Secret Service employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the first year of the pandemic, which is more than previously known, according to a nonprofit group.
Between March 1, 2020 and March 9, 2021 “881 active Secret Service employees were diagnosed with COVID,” Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said in a report on Tuesday, based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. “The list consists of 477 special agents; 249 members of the Uniformed Division; 131 working in administrative, professional and technical positions; 12 investigative protection officers; and 12 technical security investigators. The records ... do not include the names or assignments of those who tested positive.”
The agency had 7,576 employees as of March 2021, and 7,535 as of March 2020, according to the Office of Personnel Management’s data. Therefore, the positive cases represent about 11.7% of the workforce.
It is unclear how many (if any) hospitalizations and deaths there were.
Actions President Trump took last year, such as campaign rallies and riding in a car to visit supporters when he was being treated for COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, raised concerns about Secret Service agents and others getting sick.
“While there have been reports of Trump’s Secret Service struggling with coronavirus cases, the number is far greater than had previously been known,” said CREW. “Due to personal privacy reasons, we do not know whom the special agents who tested positive were assigned to protect or when, exactly, they tested positive.”
Justine Whelan, Secret Service spokeswoman, said, "maintaining the health and welfare of its dedicated workforce is a top priority for the Secret Service," in a statement to Government Executive. "To this end, the agency employs a robust COVID-19 testing program, which includes mandatory testing for certain frontline employees regardless of whether they are symptomatic." Also, the agency secured personal protective equipment, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for its employees, she said.
"Although their jobs required significant public interaction during a public health crisis, the dedicated employees of the Secret Service performed their duties with honor and distinction," Whelan said. "The Secret Service continues to monitor the ongoing pandemic and has taken all appropriate precautions to protect and equip its workforce" as it has been working with the CDC, National Institutes of Health, White House Medical Unit and DHS "to ensure the safety and security of its protectees and employees."
She also noted that “the numbers of positive test results within the agency have been officially released by the Secret Service for the first time, and there have been no official or accurate previous reports of this data.”
The Homeland Security Department, which houses the Secret Service, did not immediately respond for comment.
According to a report published in April by another watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight, DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari quashed several Trump White House-related investigations, such as how, if at all, the Secret Service worked to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within its workforce.
“Our office does not have the resources to approve every oversight proposal,” and “we have to make tough strategic decisions about how to best use our resources for greatest impact across the department," spokesperson for Cuffari’s office told POGO.
"IG [Joseph] Cuffari refuted, at a public hearing, the inaccurate allegations asserted in that article," a DHS IG office spokesperson told Government Executive, when asked for additional comment. "COVID-19 was, and is, a significant risk for DHS, and we have numerous investigations, inspections and audits that appropriately address those risks throughout DHS."
The spokesperson also noted. "Our office does not have the resources to approve every oversight proposal" as they have 'less than 400 auditors and inspectors to cover the entire Department of Homeland Security, an agency with almost half a million employees and contractors. Published and ongoing projects show that "IG Cuffari does not shy away from politically sensitive topics."
Update: This article has been updated with comments from the Secret Service and the DHS IG office.