White House correspondents’ dinner a go despite prominent COVID-19 cases
The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) says it’s full-steam ahead for its annual dinner, despite reports of another recent high-profile gala becoming a COVID-19 “superspreader” event.
“We’re on,” Steven Portnoy, the group’s president and a CBS News Radio correspondent, told ITK on Thursday, saying there’s no talk of canceling or postponing the April 30 dinner.
Washington has been buzzing about the fate of the lawmaker-, celebrity- and journalist-filled correspondents’ dinner — typically one of the city’s splashiest social events — after several prominent figures said this week that they had tested positive for COVID-19 following last weekend’s black-tie Gridiron Club dinner.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Vice President Harris’s communications director Jamal Simmons, Valerie Biden Owens, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said they had all received positive tests after attending Saturday’s VIP Gridiron soiree.
Portnoy stressed that the WHCA dinner at the Washington Hilton, poised to be headlined by “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, is moving forward with pandemic-related precautions put in place months ago.
“We are going to, as a baseline level, require every one of the 2,620 ticket holders at our event to demonstrate on Saturday, April 30, that they have tested negative on a same-day rapid test,” Portnoy said, noting the measures are the same requirements as those for any members of the White House press pool.
“While we’re working in conjunction with the White House on our testing protocols, the White House has not asked us to do this,” Portnoy said. “We’re taking it upon ourselves as an association to apply this requirement.”
While sitting commanders in chief typically attend the correspondents’ dinner, former President Trump bucked tradition by skipping the event when he was in office.
The White House has not confirmed whether President Biden plans to attend the correspondents’ dinner. A White House spokesman told ITK on Thursday that there were no updates to Biden’s schedule regarding the dinner.
When asked if the apparent fallout from the Gridiron event has given correspondents’ dinner organizers any pause, Portnoy replied, “I mean, no more so than other events that the president is attending.” Portnoy pointed to the White House Easter Egg Roll — which draws thousands of families each year to the South Lawn — that Biden is expected to attend later this month.
“I’ve gotten no sense from the White House that there’s any fear of the president in large settings,” he said.
Proof of vaccination won’t be required at the WHCA dinner, which was canceled the past two years due to the pandemic.
Portnoy said that the WHCA’s members are “almost universally vaccinated” and that a negative test requirement, rather than vaccine proof, offers what he believes to be “a stronger protection” against COVID-19.
The WHCA president said dinner attendees will need to acquire a COVID-19 test themselves and then upload the results of it to an app, which will produce an entry pass.
Guests “will show one-for-one, their ticket and their negative test result, in order to be admitted into the ballroom,” Portnoy said.
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