President Donald J. Trump listens as Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
According to the Daily Caller, White House Correspondents’ Association President, Jonathan Karl, a reporter for ABC, told the White House on Monday that one of the members of the WH press corp was suspected of having the Wuhan virus.
Karl did not identify who the person was but he said that the person had been at the White House four times on March 9, 11, 16 and 18 in the past two weeks while President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were both in the room. Karl advised that any journalists who were at the White House at this time should check the applicable guidelines and call their physicians for their recommendations.
All WHCA members had previously been instructed to notify the WHCA board “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.
There have been a variety of cases concerning the White House including a Chinese media employee who tried to enter the briefing room with a fever who was stopped from getting in. A member of the Vice President’s staff, a Secret Service employee and multiple people with whom the President and the Vice President came in contact with who have all tested positive. President Trump and Vice President Pence both tested negative.
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.
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. 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.
Trump actually scolded the journalists on Thursday for sitting next too close to each other in the briefing room and violating the six-foot guidelines that were being recommended. He joked how he should “really get rid of another 75 to 80 percent of them.”
But it’s a challenging problem because it’s a small enclosed room, it might make more sense to do things remotely for a couple of weeks so as not to further expose Trump or Pence, or anybody else.