A nonprofit watchdog group has counted 881 Secret Service employees who tested positive for the coronavirus between March 1, 2020, and March 9, 2021. Of those, 477 belonged to the special agent division, whose duties include guarding the president, vice president, and their families, the Washington Post reports. In its report issued Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington assessed blame for the infections, pointing to the large rallies former President Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence held in violation of public health guidelines and the Trump family's continued travel during the pandemic. "It’s impossible to overstate the risk the Trump administration put on Secret Service agents," the group wrote. The Secret Service confirmed the nonprofit's numbers, which were obtained under a Freedom of Information request.
The group put particular emphasis on Trump's appearance in October outside Walter Reed Medical before supporters, "in a car with secret service agents while being treated for COVID, further putting agents in danger." Secret Service Director James Murray explained that decision to lawmakers last month, per CNN. He said it was made after "extensive conversation" with medical professionals. It's not up to the Secret Service to decide whether an excursion is wise, Murray said, just whether it's feasible. The agency said in a statement that its mission required it to be in contact with members of the public during the COVID-19 outbreak. "With the pandemic raging during the campaign, Trump appeared to be deliberately putting the lives of Secret Service agents at risk in order to portray himself as tougher than the coronavirus," the watchdog said. (Read more Secret Service stories.)