White House Coronavirus Outbreak: Three Journalists And One Staffer Test Positive

By Tom Tapp, Ted Johnson

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany walks out of the microphones after talking to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House. Sipa via AP Images

UPDATE: Three White House Correspondents’ Association President Zeke Miller said that three journalists have tested positive for the coronavirus.

One reporter, who was at the White House briefing on Sunday, received a preliminary positive test on Friday morning. Another who was part of the out-of-town travel pool last Saturday began experiencing symptoms on Thursday. And the third reporter was part of the in-town travel pool last weekend and began experiencing symptoms late Wednesday.

“The White House Medical Unit is beginning the process of contact tracing for these cases. We do not yet have an estimated time of completion for that process,” Miller wrote.

He added, “Given these positive cases, the president’s diagnosis and positive cases among other members of the White House staff, a number of White House journalists are self-isolating pending diagnostic testing.”

His full memo is below.

PREVIOUSLY: Three members of the White House press corps have tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as a White House staffer who sits in close proximity to where reporters typically gather in the West Wing.

The White House Correspondents’ Association sent out notices to members on Friday, updating them on the situation following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.

The WHCA, a non profit made up of members of the media that coordinates access to the president, said on Friday afternoon that two member of the press corps tested positive for the virus. One individual was last at the White House on Saturday and then traveled on Air Force One for the president’s trip to Pennsylvania, the WHCA said, according to a notice that was obtained by Deadline. The person, who was unidentified, began experiencing symptoms on Thursday.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of mask-wearing, social distancing and common sense,” the notice said. They advised those who are not in the pool and who do not have an enclosed workspace from working out of the White House.

Another reporter tested positive and began experiencing minor symptoms on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post. The individual had been working at the White House last weekend.

Earlier, CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that another journalist received a preliminary positive result and a staffer who sits in the lower press area in the West Wing received a “confirmed positive result.”

The “lower press” area, where some members of the media staff have desks, is located through a sliding door off to the side of the lectern in the briefing room.

The WHCA has urged members to try to avoid working at the White House when possible. The news media works out of very cramped quarters in an area that used to house an indoor pool. In March, the WHCA imposed new restrictions on those who can attend White House press briefings, limiting the number of reporters who can sit in the rows of seats.

News of the outbreak began when it was revealed on Thursday that top Trump aide Hope Hicks tested positive for the virus.

ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Johnathan Karl reported on Friday that, “Hicks had symptoms on Wednesday night and tested positive yesterday morning. We also know she she had been with @PressSec [Kayleigh McEnany].”

Karl went on to ask McEnany via tweet: “What did you know, when went into a room full of reporters for your briefing yesterday at 11:20am?”

It’s an important question given McEnany’s penchant for appearing maskless at the podium and in gaggles with reporters , as she did again Friday morning. CNN later reported that McEnany said she did not know of Hicks’ status when she held her Thursday press briefing.

She gave reporters an update on the president’s condition outside the White House on Friday.

“He had mild symptoms, but he’s working hard,” said the press secretary. “We’ve had to slow him down for a bit. But he’s been on the phone with Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham.”

Trump, 74, falls into a vulnerable age category for serious symptoms, and he also is at higher risk because he is overweight and male.

The president and the first lady are quarantining in the White House.

Miller’s memo to White House correspondents is below:

Dear colleagues,

First off, I want to thank you all for your professionalism under these difficult and uncertain circumstances. Despite it all, we have maintained the protective pool around the president, a responsibility that is now more important than ever.

An update on where we stand: As of this moment, three White House journalists tested positive for COVID-19 today.

Individual 1 (Numbered in order of notification) received a preliminary positive test this morning at call time in the White House. The individual subsequently left the complex and received a confirming positive test. This individual was also at the White House briefing this past Sunday.

Individual 2 was most recently part of the out-of-town travel pool on Saturday for the trip to Pennsylvania but was briefly at the White House earlier in the day for a COVID test. That individual began experiencing symptoms on Thursday and tested positive earlier today.

Individual 3 was most recently part of the in-town travel pool on Sunday, which included a presidential news conference and a trip to the golf course. They also were in the in-town pool on Saturday, which included the Rose Garden event. That individual began experiencing symptoms late Wednesday and received a positive test result this afternoon.

The White House Medical Unit is beginning the process of contact tracing for these cases. We do not yet have an estimated time of completion for that process.

Given these positive cases, the president’s diagnosis and positive cases among other members of the White House staff, a number of White House journalists are self-isolating pending diagnostic testing.

Where do we go from here: Due to cases linked to the pools last weekend and the large number of press credentialed for the 9/26 Rose Garden event, we ask that if you were on the White House grounds or in the pools those days, that you pay extra attention to any changes in your health.

As of now, the White House has committed to testing those who were on Air Force One in the last week on Monday morning at call time. We strongly encourage other journalists who may have been exposed this week to avail themselves of other testing options, through their local health department, personal physician, employer or other accommodation before returning to the White House complex.

For seven months, we have been clear-eyed about the inherent risks in fulfilling our obligation to keeping the American public informed. Today those risks are more evident than ever, but our work is only growing more vital.

To allow that work to continue, we are insisting that journalists who are not in the pool and do not have an enclosed workspace to refrain from working out of the White House at this time. We must lower our exposure to possible further infections. When in the shared press areas, including at desks, please wear a mask at all times.

Avoid congregating in the break room or other areas. We urge you to take meals outdoors to minimize any time spent inside without a mask. This weekend, the weather will be pleasant and I suggest bringing a lawn chair and working from the driveway if you absolutely must be at the White House.

When going about your daily lives, please do your best to minimize risk. Your efforts both in and outside of the White House press work area are critical to maintaining a healthy press corps.

If you are returning from non-essential travel to any of the high-risk states listed in Mayor Bowser’s executive order, we ask that you avoid working from the White House press workspace during the 14 day self-quarantine period. (Journalistic assignments are considered essential.)

Thank you for your cooperation,

Zeke

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2020/10/white-house-coronavirus-donald-trump-white-house-press-corps-1234590403/