The White House Correspondents' Association said late Monday that a member has a suspected case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The journalist, who was not named by the group, was at the White House several times in the past two weeks, including during three press conferences attended by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The WHCA said it will institute new guidelines, including only having 14 reporters instead of 25 in the White House briefing room.
WHCA President Jonathan Karl, ABC News' chief White House correspondent, sent a letter to members confirming "one of our colleagues has a suspected case of COVID-19." The reporter was at the White House on March 9, 11, 16 and 18, Karl said, reports The Hill. There were press conferences with both Trump and Pence on three of those days.
The WHCA also released a new seating chart "to further implement social distancing in the press room," which has seats for 48 people. The group also asked reporters who can work remotely to stay home. Anyone who feels ill should also not go to the White House at all, the statement read.
"As we have said since this crisis began, our priority is ensuring that we can maintain a healthy pool to provide coverage of the president. To that end, the WHCA took the emergency step last month to issue a new, temporary seating chart," the statement read. "Today, we are revising the temporary seating chart again to further implement social distancing in the press room, effective immediately."
The WHCA had already taken steps to cut down the number of reporters in the already-cramped James S. Brady briefing room at the White House. However on Thursday, Trump told reporters they were still sitting too close and he thought they should only have two to three reporters in the room at a time.
"You're actually sitting too close. Really, we should probably get rid of about 75, 80 percent of you," Trump said. "I'll have just two or three of you that I like in this room. I think that's a great way of doing it. "You're actually much too close... You should move. You should move immediately."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social distancing guidelines recommend people stand about six feet from one another. The CDC's list of ways to protect yourself include washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, stay home if you are sick and cover coughs and sneezes. If you are already sick, you should wear a facemask if you happen to be around other people.
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