News & Politics

White House Reporters Will Have to Get Covid Tests, Wear Surgical Masks When Biden Takes Over

Under Trump, staffers were often maskless and multiple reporters caught the virus

A scene from the briefing room last October, via the White House's YouTube page.

The Biden administration will mandate universal Covid testing for journalists at the White House complex, which means the maximum number of press on White House grounds will be 80, with up to 40 indoors. That’s according to a memo the White House Correspondents’ Association sent members Tuesday afternoon.

Journalists will have to take an Abbott rapid test at the White House Conference Center before entering each morning and will have to wear a wristband once they’re through. They’ll have to wear new surgical masks (neck gaiters, bandannas, and masks with valves are not permitted, according to a memo from the incoming White House press team that accompanied the WHCA email) and maintain at least a six-foot distance from others. First violation? A warning. Second violation? You lose your “hard pass” for a week.

The measures are a big change from the Trump White House, where staffers seemingly went out of their way to expose journalists to the virus. Outgoing press secretary Kayleigh McEnany frequently addressed the press while maskless, even as Trump reportedly avoided close contact with reporters (her husband, former Mets pitcher Sean Gilmartin, attended one briefing maskless himself and refused a journalist’s request that he don one). A number of journalists who cover the White House have tested positive. The press corps’ workspace inside the White House already observes social distancing precautions, the WHCA email notes, and the seating arrangements for the emergency briefing room will not change.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.