Two Secret Service agents face 14 days of isolation after joining Trump on motorcade stunt: ‘Outrage’ in the agency despite White House claim that medics cleared the photo-op
- CDC and Maryland state rules say the two bodyguards will have to quarantine
- Secret Service agents wore protective gear but sat at close quarters to Trump
- The White House insists that the photo-op was given the green light by medics
Two of Donald Trump‘s Secret Service detail are facing 14 days of isolation after traveling in a sealed car with the infected president during a motorcade stunt which caused ‘outrage’ among some of the agency’s 3,000 elite bodyguards.
Doctors, the CDC and the state of Maryland say the two agents will have to quarantine after their close contact with Trump, prompting anger from some agents at a president who was ‘not even pretending to care’.
Agents have previously gone into isolation after an outbreak linked to an Oklahoma rally in June, and thousands of them are on duty during election season, meaning they can be subbed out quickly if some of them test positive.
While Trump’s aides insist that the photo-op was cleared by medics, it is not known whether the agents agreed or were ordered to take part, and fears have been growing in the Secret Service about the White House’s slapdash attitude to mask-wearing and social distancing.
Close quarters: Donald Trump gave a wave to supporters as he sat behind Secret Service agents in a motorcade outside the Walter Reed hospital on Sunday
Protection: The agent in the passenger seat was wearing a close-fitting mask, a strap above his eyes and appeared to have a protective covering on top of his uniform
Trump was wearing a cloth face covering during his Sunday photo-op, while at least one of his agents had a close-fitting mask which resembled an N95 respirator.
The agent in the passenger seat also had a strap around his head which may have been for eye protection, and appeared to be wearing a covering over his uniform.
The driver also appeared to be wearing some protective gear, but was barely visible through the windows as Trump waved to his supporters.
Federal health chiefs say anyone who has ‘been in close contact’ with a coronavirus patient should isolate for two weeks, while the state of Maryland – where the Walter Reed hospital is located – says quarantine applies to anyone ‘exposed to Covid-19 because they were in close contact with someone with Covid-19’.
Maryland’s rules require quarantine for people who were within six feet of a Covid-19 patient for at least 15 minutes.
The guidelines do not say that wearing masks allows people to avoid quarantine after coming close to an infected Covid-19 patient.
The raised windows which were necessary for Trump’s protection would also have increased the risk of transmission inside the car.
The CDC says that indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor ones because ventilation may be poorer and social distancing harder or impossible, and presidential vehicles are hermetically sealed to guard against a chemical attack.
Numerous Secret Service agents have tested positive since the pandemic began, including two cases linked to a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the summer.
The rally led to dozens of agents being quarantined, according to reports at the time – suggesting that the bodyguards are not considered exempt from isolation rules.
Six Trump campaign staffers also contracted the virus after working in advance of the Tulsa rally, which took place despite a spike in cases in Oklahoma.
In the wake of the rally, agents faced mandatory testing 24 to 48 hours before a presidential trip amid fears of a wider outbreak among Trump’s protective guard.
The president’s driver was barely visible but appeared to be wearing some kind of protective gear as the motorcade drove past assembled Trump supporters
Trump was wearing a cloth mask but was clearly within six feet of his agents, the distance which counts as ‘close contact’ under the state of Maryland’s rules
Even before Trump’s motorcade outing, some Secret Service agents have expressed concern about the lackadaisical attitude toward masks and social distancing.
However, there is not much that the Secret Service can do about it, according to agents and officials.
Trump has openly mocked mask-wearing, including at last Tuesday’s debate, and continued to hold the rallies which he touts as evidence of his support.
Sunday’s appearance caused ‘outrage’ among some agents who asked how the photo-op justified putting bodyguards in danger of infection.
‘He’s not even pretending to care now,’ said one agent, according to the Washington Post.
White House spokesman Judd Deere insisted that Trump’s trip outside the hospital ‘was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.’
He added that precautions were taken, including using personal protective equipment, to protect Trump as well as his Secret Service agents.
This close to the election, thousands of agents are engaged on protective duty so they can be subbed out quickly should someone test positive.
Protective agents wore masks when Trump was airlifted to Walter Reed on Friday, less than 24 hours after confirming he had tested positive.
But experts took to the airwaves and social media to criticize Sunday’s stunt, which they said demonstrated that he had learned nothing at all.
‘Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,’ said James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University.
‘The risk of Covid-19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures,’ he said. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play.
‘They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.’
Supporters wave to the president after he angered medics with a surprise appearance outside the hospital where he is being treated for Covid-19
Zeke Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, described the appearance as ‘shameful.’
‘Making his Secret Service agents drive with a COVID-19 patient, with windows up no less, put them needlessly at risk for infection. And for what? A PR stunt,’ he tweeted.
Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, added that he was praying for the health of the Secret Service security detail.
‘They understood the risk inherent in the job, but they shouldn’t have to contemplate that the risk is coming from the protectee,’ said Schatz.
Trump was also criticized by his former communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who said Trump’s disregard for the rules undermined his attempt to put on a ‘show of strength’.
‘I don’t think it’s a show of strength. A show of strength requires empathy for the secret service people,’ Scaramucci told Good Morning Britain.
‘A show of strength requires messaging to the entire world and the US that I am sick and here are the precautions that we’re going to take to make sure that you don’t get sick and other people in your family don’t get sick.’
As well as Trump and Hope Hicks, numerous White House insiders and at least three Republican senators have contracted Covid-19, along with first lady Melania Trump, who has not experienced severe symptoms.
Public health experts have expressed alarm at the ‘White House cluster’ that has been linked to Trump’s Supreme Court nomination in the Rose Garden a week ago.
As well as oxygen, Trump has been treated with dexamethasone, a steroid used to treat inflammation in other diseases.
On Saturday, the president was started on a five-day course of intravenous antiviral drug remdesivir, which is sold by Gilead Sciences.
Doctors have said that both of these drugs makes sense early in the course of illness to prevent it from getting worse, but dexamethasone is generally reserved for people whose condition has deteriorated.
‘We give dexamethasone to patients who require supplemental oxygen,’ said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
‘The biggest question would be is there a risk of deterioration, or is he on a good trajectory?’ Dr. Adalja said.
Dr. David Battinelli, chief medical officer at New York’s Northwell Health, said ‘it’s entirely plausible’ that Trump could get discharged on Monday, but cautioned that a full recovery would take time.
‘It would be very unlikely for him to be out and about, and on the campaign trail in less than 14 days,’ he said.
With less than a month until the election, the president’s hospitalization has sidelined him from the campaign as he tries to overhaul Joe Biden’s poll lead.
Biden – who announced his latest negative test for the virus on Sunday – will start the week with a trip to key swing state Florida on Monday.