The White House will be giving coronavirus tests to reporters attending Thursday’s press briefing, a signal of concerns over exposure even after a series of social distancing measures have been put in place.
The reporters will be tested and have their results back in time for the session, which usually begins around 5:30 PM ET.
Before the new precautions, reporters had their temperatures checked before entering the briefing room, a tiny space in the West Wing built over what was once an indoor pool.
The White House Correspondents’ Association put in place a series of measures to space reporters with only two occupied seats per row. That leaves just 14 reporters sitting in the seats, making for an unusual atmosphere as President Donald Trump takes questions. Because the reporters are in a pool rotation, he often does not know the correspondent and has been asking which outlet they are with before listening to their question and answering.
Even with the new spacing, some reporters are still closer than six feet — the recommended distance from the Centers for Disease Control.
The nightly briefings have come under considerable scrutiny, with pressure on news networks to refrain from carrying them live or to do more aggressive fact checking, out of concerns that Trump has relayed misinformation. Earlier on Thursday, Trump blasted The Wall Street Journal for an editorial criticizing the nightly events, boasting of the ratings he’s garnered for the briefings.
“The Wall Street Journal always ‘forgets’ to mention that the ratings for the White House Press Briefings are “through the roof” (Monday Night Football, Bachelor Finale, according to @nytimes) & is only way for me to escape the Fake News & get my views across. WSJ is Fake News!”
The Journal had called the briefings a waste of time.
The editorial opened, “A friend of ours who voted for President Trump sent us a note recently saying that she had stopped watching the daily White House briefings of the coronavirus task force. Why? Because they have become less about defeating the virus and more about the many feuds of Donald J. Trump.”