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Secret Service officers at Tulsa rally self-isolate after virus cases

 

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Mass gathering: President Donald Trump speaks at the rally in Tulsa. Photo: REUTERS

Mass gathering: President Donald Trump speaks at the rally in Tulsa. Photo: REUTERS

REUTERS

Mass gathering: President Donald Trump speaks at the rally in Tulsa. Photo: REUTERS

Dozens of Secret Service officers and agents who were on-site for US President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week were ordered to self-quarantine after two of their colleagues tested positive for coronavirus.

The news comes as another part of the fallout from Mr Trump's insistence on holding the mass gathering over the objections of public health officials.

The Secret Service instructed employees who worked the Tulsa event to stay at home for 14 days when they returned from the weekend trip, according to two people familiar with the agency's decision.

The order came in the wake of the discovery - hours before the president's Saturday evening rally - that at least six advance staffers who helped organise the trip had tested positive for the virus, including two Secret Service employees. Another two advance staffers tested positive after Mr Trump returned to Washington on Sunday.

On Tuesday, the Secret Service field office in Tulsa arranged for a special testing session at a hospital to determine if local agents had contracted the virus while assisting with the rally, according to two other people with knowledge of the testing.

It is still unknown how the rally may have affected Tulsa's count of coronavirus cases, which is rising swiftly. Tulsa County hit a record on Wednesday, with 259 new confirmed cases.

The move by the Secret Service to try to limit the spread of the infection shows how Mr Trump's decision to go forward with the rally increased the health risks and burden on the people who protect the president, former agents said.

A Secret Service spokeswoman declined to comment on how many of its employees have tested positive or were quarantined.

"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," agency spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan said in a statement.

White House spokesman Judd Deere did not directly answer questions about whether the president regretted the trip.

"The president takes the health and safety of everyone travelling in support of himself and all White House operations very seriously," Mr Deere said in a statement.

The Trump campaign hoped the Tulsa trip would rally supporters in the heavily red state of Oklahoma amid polls showing an increasing number of voters concerned about the president's handling of the pandemic, a stall in the economy and racial unrest.

Before Mr Trump and his son Eric were scheduled to take to the stage in the BOK Centre in Tulsa, the campaign learned that six staffers who helped organise the event had tested positive for the coronavirus, including an advance agent and a Secret Service officer assigned to help screen attendees.

The two Secret Service employees had both attended a Friday afternoon planning meeting, where dozens of Secret Service staff gathered to review the logistics and their duties for the Saturday rally, according to people familiar with the situation.

Though the Secret Service employees who tested positive did not attend the rally, other Secret Service staff who were at the Friday meeting continued to perform their duties.

"The entire team should have been switched out," said one person familiar with the Friday meeting. "They were all exposed." (© The Washington Post)