Justin Bullock, FISM News
The formal end to the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight and a return to normal habits of pre-pandemic life is being realized around the country. This encouraging shift was evidenced on Sunday when the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) announced that the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House will return to full capacity. The WHCA sent a memo to White House journalists on Sunday notifying them of the change and sending out a preliminary seating chart.
There are 500 journalists who are authorized to sit in the press briefing room during White House press conferences. The WHCA went on to say that the White House will use the seating chart for an initial period of time, and will review it at the end of this year. The WHCA memo said,
Since the onset of the pandemic, our priority has been to keep journalists safe, while ensuring that the critical work of informing the public could continue uninterrupted… We appreciate the sacrifices made by every member of the press corps and we thank you all for your cooperation over the last 15 months… We now are excited to share the next big step in our plans to safely return to normal press operations at the White House. Additional steps will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.
This development comes on the heels of the White House lifting the mask mandate for journalists who have been fully vaccinated last month. The WHCA memo on May 17, 2021 stated,
Effective immediately, pursuant to the new CDC guidance, mask-wearing requirements are lifted at the White House complex for those who are 14 days after their last required dose of one of the COVID-19 shots.
In addition to returning the press briefing room to full capacity, the White House is also lifting all pandemic restrictions on the White House grounds for the press. This means that journalists, especially of major publications, will have access to the work spaces customarily reserved for them at the White House and that full capacity will be reinstated on the North Lawn where press briefings sometimes occur. All of these changes are the result of a survey conducted by the WHCA asking the 500 White House journalists whether or not they were fully vaccinated. Ninety-eight percent of the journalists indicated that they were fully vaccinated.