June 12, 2021

White House to end pandemic policy reducing press briefing room capacity

Slowly but surely, COVID-19 restrictions are being rolled back. That’s even happened in President Joe Biden’s White House with a pressroom change this week that will impact numbers, but will it change how he’s covered?

The White House press briefing room has returned to 100% capacity, according to The Hill. A White House Correspondents Association indicated 98% of its 500-strong membership has been fully vaccinated which allowed for the change.

“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,” the association’s memo to reporters said Sunday. “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.”

Previously, the White House incrementally bumped up the capacity of the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. Many had seen this change coming when White House press secretary Jen Psaki hinted at it last month.

“I can confirm we are a warm and fuzzy crew and we like to hug around here but we were waiting for that to be allowed by CDC guidelines, which we certainly abide by,” Psaki told the press on May 21. “We are, as many organizations and companies are, working to implement these guidelines here at the White House so what you’ve seen over the last couple of days is efforts to do exactly that and that includes welcoming back and having a full briefing room very soon.”

This change ushered in Monday opens both the indoor and outdoor spaces to their pre-pandemic capacity for the press. However, it’s doubtful that the higher numbers of journalists will change anything about the fawning coverage Biden has enjoyed.

While the press previously hammered former President Donald Trump, they’ve lobbed only softball questions at Psaki and Biden. Just before Memorial Day weekend, the press cheered the president’s choice in ice cream flavor.

It’s a wonderful sign that institutions are getting back to their pre-pandemic levels. However, it doesn’t seem it will be consequential to the way Biden is being covered by those journalists, regardless of how many there are in the room.

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