The US Secret Service was forced to urge Mike Pence’s office to delay a trip to Arizona as agents were falling ill with coronavirus amid a nationwide spike in cases, according to a new report.
Mr Pence was scheduled to travel from Washington to Phoenix on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported, but scaled back his trip after a Secret Service agent contracted the novel virus and several others began exhibiting symptoms associated with Covid-19.
The vice president’s own staffers were reportedly concerned about the state’s rise in infections, with Arizona reporting a record number of cases and deaths ahead of Mr Pence’s visit.
Mr Pence ultimately pushed back his trip by one day, heading to Phoenix on Wednesday and holding a small meeting with Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) and local leaders during the weekend.
According to the Post, the Secret Service required additional time to replace a total of eight to 10 members of the vice president’s entourage with healthy agents ahead of the Arizona trip. The news comes as Mr Pence and President Donald Trump both face criticism for their travels amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Several Secret Service agents and members of the president’s campaign team all fell ill with coronavirus while working on his campaign rally event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an event that was billed as one million strong but saw just 6,200 attendees.
Travel has posed unprecedented challenges for the White House, with Secret Service agents being forced to self-quarantine after taking trips with the president or vice president.
However, in a statement to the Post, Mr Pence’s office attacked the newspaper for covering the spread of infections among Secret Service agents and others who surround the vice president on a daily basis.
Devin O’Malley, a spokesperson for Mr Pence, said: “Instead of highlighting Vice President Pence’s concerted effort with Task Force members to visit and support states with new cases, The Washington Post is choosing to use its pages to report on a story of little use to every day Americans attempting to learn more about how coronavirus affects them or the Administration’s response efforts.”