Secret Service Agents Slam Trump’s Car Ride Outside Walter Reed While Hospitalized with COVID-19
“He’s not even pretending to care now,” one agent told The Washington Post on Sunday
Criticism swirled in and around Walter Reed hospital on Sunday after President Donald Trump took a break from his treatment for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) for an unannounced car ride around the facility to wave to some of his supporters outside.
Sunday marked Trump's second full day at the military medical facility after being suddenly flown there via helicopter from the White House on Friday. Officials acknowledged over the weekend that his oxygen levels dropped on Friday and again on Saturday and he also had a fever Friday.
Waving from the backseat of a black SUV, a masked Trump — who The Washington Post reported was getting “bored” of being in the hospital by Sunday — sat in the vehicle with at least two Secret Service agents. In a video on Twitter from inside the hospital, Trump, 74, called it a "little surprise."
The move, which the White House insisted had sign off from the president's doctors, drew backlash from some as trivial and risky to the others in the vehicle with the president, given that he is sick.
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” tweeted Dr. James Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed and a doctor at George Washington University. “They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater.”
“This is insanity,” Phillips added.
“This is an individual with an active infection in close proximity with two other individuals, in a vehicle with closed windows, performing an optional task,” tweeted Dr. Saad Omer, an epidemiologist and the medical director at Yale Institute for Global Health.
“Masks help,” Omer wrote, “but they are not an impenetrable force field.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere defended the appearance afterwards, saying that “appropriate precautions were taken.”
"The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do," Deere maintained, saying that the precautions for the president and his supporters included the use of protective equipment (presumably such as masks).
In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the Secret Service said that the agency "will continue to follow established protocols to ensure the safety of our employees" but added it doesn't discuss details about its work.
Nonetheless, current and former agents blasted the brief trip outside the hospital as careless and concerning.
“He’s not even pretending to care now,” one agent told the Post on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A former agent, referencing the Trump administration, simply asked: “Where are the adults?”
"That should never have happened," a current agent, who works on the first family’s personal detail, told CNN. “The frustration with how we're treated when it comes to decisions on this illness goes back before this though. We're not disposable."
The White House Correspondents' Association also took umbrage with the unannounced appearance, given that the White House had already told the reporters who travel with Trump each day that he would not be making any further movement.
The president’s brief public appearance followed an extraordinarily confounding weekend in which White House officials failed to clearly provide accurate information about Trump's health while his doctors made a number of contradictory statements and declined to answer many specific questions about his current status.
White House physician Dr. Sean Conley also refused to answer reporters’ questions about what lasting damage Trump’s COVID-19 illness might have on his lungs going forward — weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Trump aides and other leading Republicans have repeatedly said he remains at work while hospitalized.
The ultimate course of his treatment and recovery remained unclear Monday morning, though his doctors have said they are trying to seem publicly optimistic and that he could soon be discharged.
Trump's opponent, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, sent his well wishes over the weekend as he was be able to continue campaigning while Trump remained hospitalized with the virus he long brushed off at his own campaign events.
“I genuinely feel badly for the president,” Biden, 77, said in an interview with local NBC affiliate WOOD in Michigan. “I hope to God that this is something that he and his wife will be able to tolerate and get through without any lasting impact on them.”
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