White House briefing room opens to 50 percent capacity
The White House on Monday lifted the 14-person pandemic limit on the number of reporters allowed in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, increasing the number to 24, half its full capacity.
BIG CHANGE. WH briefing now at 50 percent capacity (24 seats filled) for first time in more than a year and first time in this administration. pic.twitter.com/PTf0nYHbCz
— Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO) May 24, 2021
50% capacity in White House Press Briefing Room pic.twitter.com/y1OVf1A8kA
— Jeremy Art (@cspanJeremy) May 24, 2021
The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) had announced the changes to its members over the weekend, signaling the lifting of restrictions that had been in place since March 2020.
The White House’s North Lawn went to 100 percent capacity, while indoor press workspace remains at 50 percent.
Journalists still must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or show proof of a negative test before entering the White House complex, with the White House covering test costs for reporters in the press pool or attending press conferences in the briefing room.
The WHCA and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the new policy.
Reporters are allowed to take their masks off if they are vaccinated, according to the announcement, but there was no mention about if reporters must show proof that they received their shots.
However, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, reporters still must wear masks while on public transit, which, “for these purposes, includes pool transportation like vans, Ospreys and Air Force One,” the announcement stated.
The WHCA came up with the new socially distant seating system for the briefing room on March 16 of last year. The changes were made in coordination with stricter White House protocols.
The White House began testing anyone with proximity to then-President Trump or former Vice President Mike Pence last April.