WHCA ‘Strongly Encourages’ Journalists to Avoid Working on White House Grounds

October 8, 2020 by Dan McCue
The White House (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The White House Correspondents’ Association on Wednesday “strongly” encouraged journalists to “avoid working from the White House grounds entirely” if at all possible.

The notice, circulated among the association’s members and posted on its website, came after BuzzFeed News pulled one of its correspondents, Kadia Goba, from the White House press pool, citing concerns that the White House and its grounds have become a coronavirus hot zone.

The White House press pool is a group of reporters who work on a rotating basis and share daily coverage of White House events to scores of other news organizations.

The pool includes representatives of wire news services, newspapers and news sites, as well as television and radio outlets.

On Wednesday, Politico sent a reporter, Meridith McGraw, to cover the White House in place of the BuzzFeed reporter.

It also released a statement that said, “Witnessing events unfolding at the White House is valuable for us, the press corps, Americans and the world at such a critical moment in our nation’s history. We will continue to follow W.H.C.A. guidelines on safely reporting from the White House as the situation continues to develop.”

The extraordinary situation comes as President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, several West Wing aides, including Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary, and a number of journalists have tested positive for the coronavirus.

In its notice on Wednesday, the WHCA said dozens of tests had been conducted on members of its press corps since Friday, the day President Trump revealed his diagnosis, and there had been no additional cases of the coronavirus.

The association said it is insisting that journalists who are not in the pool and do not have an enclosed workspace refrain from entering the indoor press areas of the White House, and that for those individuals who must work at the White House, “a mask continues to be required in any shared indoor press areas and we strongly suggest working outdoors as much as possible.

“We again encourage journalists who have been at the White House since 9/26 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,” the notice said.

The association went on to say that it expects daily testing for the in-town, and eventually out-of-town, pools to continue. “But as we all know, and as recent events have shown, frequent testing is a necessary but not sufficient condition for containing the virus,” the notice said.

It continued: “Despite everything we’ve experienced in recent days, it would be foolish of us to assume that the situation at the White House or on the campaign trail will improve dramatically over the coming four weeks,” the statement said.

“That means that we as a press corps, and each of us individually, must be cleareyed about the potential risks of COVID exposure on the job, taking every precaution we can to fulfill our coverage obligations while being prepared for situations with which we may not be comfortable,” it said.

The association noted that since the onset of the pandemic in March, its mission has been to facilitate the safest possible working environment for journalists at the White House.

“Since March, we have advocated publicly, but also privately, for measures to protect journalists and their ability to do their work in these uncertain times.

“While we are awaiting additional test results for some members, it appears clear that our safe behavior has helped contain this virus. We haven’t just been lucky, we have followed science and we have been vigilant,” the association said.

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