A White House reporter has a suspected case of coronavirus, White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) President Jonathan Karl said in a message to the press corps that covers President Trump.
The reporter — who was not named — had been at the White House four times in the past two weeks, on March 9, 11, 16 and 18. The reporter was covering briefings by Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other officials.
WHCA members had previously been told to notify the WHCA “if they have sought a COVID-19 test or have been diagnosed positive to ensure that appropriate steps can be taken.”
“The WHCA had reduced its presence in the White House Brady Briefing Room to comply with social distancing guidelines put out by the president and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection. Members of White House physician’s office have been administering temperature checks to all journalists before entering the compound and prior to the task force briefings,” Karl said.
The WHCA last week dropped the number of reporters in the White House Brady Briefing Room from 49 to 25. “On Monday, shortly after the organization announced that a journalist might have the virus, the WHCA issued even stricter guidelines, cutting the seats from 25 to 14 reporters,” Politico reported. “The new orders, working to comply with social distancing guidelines in a cramped work space, have thinned the press room as reporters sit with empty seats between them.”
“A number of news organizations have confirmed that some of their employees contracted the virus. And the WHCA has issued new protocol for White House journalists, cutting the number of available press room seats in half — leaving a half-empty briefing room as President Donald Trump addresses the nation about the pandemic,” Politico wrote.
The WHCA urged reporters to work remotely if possible and limit the number of journalists at the White House to the bare minimum. So did the White House.
“Members of the press who do not have a seat on the updated seating chart or who do not participate in the President’s In-House Pool will not be permitted access to the White House Complex,” read an email from White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. She added that the changes were “effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and continuing until further notice.”
“Now, more than ever, America needs a healthy, fair, and accurate press to deliver the news,” Grisham wrote in her email. ” We again urge members of the press to direct the American people to Coronavirus.gov for the most up-to-date and factual information available. When possible, members of the press seeking information are encouraged to call or email press staff as opposed to physically entering the Lower or Upper Press Offices. Thank you for understanding that necessary and temporary precautions must be made during this unprecedented situation for your safety and for the safety of our great Nation.”
The White House last weekend began taking the temperature of people “in close contact” with Trump or Pence, including reporters who are attending briefings on the coronavirus.
“Out of an abundance of caution, temperature checks are now being performed on any individuals who are in close contact with the President and Vice President,” Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. “In order to keep the entire White House complex safe and healthy, beginning Monday morning, temperature checks will be conducted on everyone who enters campus. As was announced over the weekend, additional temperature checks will be conducted on individuals who are in close contact with the president and vice president throughout the day.”