White House briefing room returning to normal capacity Monday
The White House briefing room will return to full capacity beginning Monday, according to the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), roughly a month after the number of reporters in the room was limited due to the surge of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
WHCA President Steven Portnoy in an email to reporters on Friday afternoon said that the decision was made to return to a normal briefing room size due to the current decline in cases in Washington, D.C.
“Case rates and test positivity in DC continue to fall back to a level that — while still elevated above the peaks of past waves — brings us close to where we were before Omicron swept the city,” Portnoy wrote. “As a result, your board has determined it’s time to end the emergency rotations.”
The briefing room typically seats 49 journalists, but the WHCA chose to reduce the capacity to 14 in early January amid a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases in the District and elsewhere in the U.S.
Portnoy’s email said that those who serve in the pool of reporters covering the president’s daily movement and who are not fully vaccinated are required to test negative for COVID-19 on the day they are going into the White House.
He strongly encouraged everyone else working out of the White House to test beforehand, but those individuals will not be required to do so.
The WHCA is also encouraging journalists to use high-quality masks like the N95, which are shown to be more protective.
The decision is a sign of operations at the White House slowly creeping back to some semblance of normalcy as omicron subsides in the U.S.
The briefing room capacity was similarly reduced for much of 2020, but restrictions eased last year as vaccines were distributed and cases declined.