White House correspondents advised to avoid grounds amid coronavirus outbreak

White House reporters were encouraged to avoid going near the executive residence Wednesday in light of President Trump and multiple members of his administration testing positive for COVID-19.

The White House Correspondents Association, an organization comprised of journalists covering the president, warned its members against working in or around his residence because of the outbreak.

In a statement, the WHCA’s executive board said they “strongly encourage all journalists to avoid working from the White House grounds entirely if it can be avoided.”

The WHCA board also said any journalists who have been at the White House since Sept. 26 should be tested for COVID-19, the contagious respiratory disease caused by the incurable novel coronavirus.

Mr. Trump and several allies and administration officials have recently tested positive for COVID-19, as well as three White House reporters and multiple staffers in the White House press office.

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 WHCA board said in a statement.

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White House correspondents test positive for coronavirus along with White House press aide

The White House Correspondents’ Association urged its members to steer clear of the press room and the small warren of workspaces behind it inside the East Wing unless they have urgent business. In the first of several emails on Friday, the group’s president, Zeke Miller of the Associated Press, asked journalists who don’t have an enclosed office in the workspace and aren’t part of the press pool — the rotating group of reporters that follows the president and shares its reporting with other reporters — to stay away from the White House altogether.

The new infections coincide with White House and Trump campaign events, including the formal introduction of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, in a Rose Garden ceremony Saturday.

One reporter who covered the ceremony said journalists were confined to a penlike enclosure behind the seated guests, with little space between them. Almost none of the invited guests wore masks, said the reporter, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the situation. The guests included Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has since tested positive for the coronavirus.

One of the newly infected journalists, whom the WHCA didn’t identify, was at the Rose Garden event on Saturday; he also rode in the press pool van that followed Trump as he played golf on Sunday, according to the WHCA. The journalist began to experience symptoms on Wednesday. A second unidentified journalist, who covered a White House briefing on Sunday, received two positive tests on Friday.

In an interview, Shear said he went to the White House on Saturday but didn’t cover the ceremony introducing Barrett. However, he was part of the press pool that covered Trump’s rally that night in Pennsylvania, and traveled to and from on Air Force One. Trump briefly spoke off the record to reporters on the plane on the way back from the rally. He noted that Trump didn’t wear a mask at that time.

Shear said he doesn’t know for sure who infected him or when, but he had contact with a number of people who could have passed the virus along, including Trump.

“Like people in a lot of other professions, I realize there’s some element of risk always” in covering the president, he said. “I feel strongly that reporting for the paper is worth some of that risk.”

But he added, “That said, I wish the White House had taken some of the recommendations that the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has been talking about for months,” such as requiring people to wear masks, practicing social distancing, and limiting crowd sizes. “There are some things the White House could have done to minimize the risk more.”

Shear said he started having symptoms, including a low-grade fever, aches and a cough, on Thursday. A test confirmed a positive diagnosis on Friday. He said he plans to quarantine at home and is hoping to keep working through his illness.

Despite the president’s diagnosis, the White House hasn’t announced any new preventive measures. Employees

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