White House reporters will soon learn if they have the coronavirus when they show up to attend daily briefings with President Trump.
Journalists with so-called “hard passes” sit just feet from the commander in chief at the press conferences and are allowed to roam West Wing offices behind the podium before and after briefings to speak with press officers.
“The White House Medical Unit will be providing COVID-19 tests to everybody attending today’s White House press briefing,” White House Correspondents’ Association President Jon Karl of ABC News wrote in a Thursday email to association members.
“This is happening today in light of the news yesterday that a member of the White House press corps who was at the White House on Tuesday is experiencing symptoms consistent with coronavirus. We hope to have that individual’s test results later today,” Karl wrote.
Reporters must arrive at the White House by 3:30 p.m., or 90 minutes before the scheduled briefing time. A rapid-results test that takes 15 minutes launched last week. Trump took the new test himself.
Before the rapid results test, an uncomfortable test involving swapping deep into the sinus cavity was required, with results taking up to days with lab processing.
A release from the White House Press Office said: “Out of an abundance of caution, the White House Medical Unit is going to conduct a COVID-19 test on all members of the press who plan to participate in today’s task force briefing, including correspondents, photographers, and technicians. These test will be conducted with absolute privacy in a vacant office within lower press.”
The reporter experiencing symptoms has not been identified. Previously, a false alarm for a White House journalist prompted the correspondents’ association to self-impose restrictions on briefing seats to reduce the potential for infections. That journalist tested negative.
Another journalist, Hunter Walker of Yahoo! News, tweeted last month that he has a presumed case of COVID-19, but has not been tested. Walker wore black gloves and a face mask to a recent White House briefing, but theorized on Twitter that he may have contracted the virus in the briefing room.
I’d also like to reiterate the point I made yesterday – my most likely exposure to this was in the White House briefing room where the safety measures are totally inadequate. I think both the @whca and White House need to be doing much more to keep people safe there.
— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) March 28, 2020
Last month the White House Medical Unit began testing the temperatures of journalists who attend White House briefings. An employee of the Chinese state-owned outlet China Central Television (CGTN) had a fever on the first day of temperature tests. He was refused access to the White House, but private medical providers declined to test him for the virus, a colleague told The Post.
White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has repeatedly cited concern that Washington, DC, will emerge as a new viral hot spot, citing increasing numbers of cases. Nationally, the virus has infected more than 450,000 people and killed about 16,000.