Covid and VIPs


The President is on a path to recovery from coronavirus, seeming to have already rebounded fully. Despite attempts from the White House to play things down, his health situation was quite serious, with real cause for concern. That the President didn’t contract coronavirus earlier is a surprise to some, as the administration has prevaricated about the impact of the virus on the US population. The administration’s stance is a textbook case of polarization and obfuscation from the top. Lessons can be learned here about how important it is for VIPs, diplomats, and leaders who make life changing policy decisions to stay safe during this pandemic or any other crisis. Contracting Covid-19 could impact a decision maker’s ability to function for an extended period.

Mindset first

A leader first needs to understand there is a real threat. Not only did the President get sick, but his cavalier behavior impacted others in his inner circle as they contracted Covid. This MO is an ongoing challenge in the White House, as the President, who is still able to spread the virus, has refused to abide by health rules. This is of particular concern for his security detail. As this NPR article covers: “typically, the leader of the protective services detail has a close relationship with a president, and will weigh in on the advisability of a trip, says a retired Secret Service supervisor who spoke to NPR on the condition of not being identified, to avoid retribution.

This virus is highly politicized. If the leadership of a country does not believe it is a threat that attitude will be reflected in that country’s fight against the virus and how leaders handle their security. The President’s recovery and continued glib approach will only cause more people to be dismissive of the virus’s impact, thus impacting everyone’s safety.

Know who is around you

As we have seen, it only takes one person (or super spreader) to infect many others. VIPs, diplomats, heads of state, and those with a constant security detail must make sure their staff is regularly tested. Professionals in the security space are at the highest risk for contacting coronavirus as they are in contact with so many.

As this data from the UK states: “security guards are most at risk of dying with Covid-19, new figures show. Men made up two thirds of the 4,761 deaths registered among people of working age (20 to 64) in England and Wales between 9 March and 25 May, the Office for National Statistics data found.”

No one person in your staff can fail

Our daily decisions impact others, which can be a life and death matter around those most at risk. Those protecting a VIP should maintain the mindset that individual actions do not just impact one person, but many. Professionals protecting high level VIPs are used to this mindset and know they may need to put their lives at risk. However, small, seemingly innocuous matters may be the most important. Now members of a security detail must monitor how they spend their off hours and who they come into contact with.

Make sure other duties do not go by the wayside

Similar to the cyber-attacks during this chaotic period now is an ideal time for those seeking to cause harm to do so. At this point we are used to the protocols to stay safe, but we cannot let our guard down. Those who seek to do us harm know it is about timing and they look for that one opening in which they can strike. Fatigue and lack of resilience is also problematic, as many are tired of abiding by health rules.

We can all take steps to mitigate risks, but leaders are faced with different challenges. They may believe they are invincible, but Covid-19 has proved to be a great equalizer. Anyone can get sick, which is why it is important for leaders to take extra steps to protect themselves. Their health and the decisions they make impact the lives of those they serve, so the stakes to stay healthy are high.

For additional resources and guidance, the Interfor team is here to help.