- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 2, 2022

The White House will temporarily reduce the number of journalists attending the daily press briefings because of the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) announced late Sunday.

The WHCA board voted unanimously to limit the briefings to 14 reporters out of the 49 open seats in the briefing room, according to an email from association president Steve Portnoy.  

Reporters will fill seats on a rotating schedule.

“Given the virulence of the spread, medical experts have once again advised that it would be prudent to substantially reduce the number of people working in the cramped, poorly ventilated workspace that we share,” Mr. Portnoy wrote.

The Washington Times is among the news outlets with a seat in the briefing room and is a member of the WHCA.

Mr. Portnoy said the WHCA intends to revisit the decision by Jan. 21, adding that “case rates and the latest guidance from experts” will determine the path forward.

“A primary objective is ensuring we are able to hold the administration accountable to the public while preventing an outbreak that might limit our ability to cover the president in close quarters,” he wrote.

The move returns the White House briefing room to the same set that was in place from the summer of 2020 through earlier this year, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past few weeks, the WHCA has urged reporters to take a rapid COVID-19 test before attending a briefing and eliminated the use of cloth masks in favor of N95 masks, which offer a close fit and better filtration.

The arrival of the Omicron variant has brought on a surge of new COVID-19 infections, leading some schools to begin the school year remotely and the cancelation of thousand

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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