A widening coronavirus outbreak at the White House has left members of the media scrambling to find out if they, too, are infected.
Three journalists who work at the White House tested positive on Friday, according to a series of memos from the White House Correspondents Association.
“Given these positive cases, the president’s diagnosis and positive cases among other members of the White House staff, a number of White House journalists are self-isolating pending diagnostic testing,” the correspondents association said in a email to members Friday night.
A White House staffer who sits in the “lower press” area of the West Wing also received a confirmed positive result on Friday morning.
Reporters and White House spokespeople work together in cramped quarters, often meeting the definition of close contact.
So there is now widespread concern among White House reporters about who was exposed.
Friday’s first memo, obtained by CNN Business, said members of the press corps were being notified “so that you can make informed judgements.”
The late morning memo said that “all other journalists tested today tested negative.”
A followup message at 1:33 p.m. carried word of another case of a sick journalist.
“We are writing to let you know that another member of our press corps tested positive today for COVID-19,” the memo said. “This individual was last at the White House on Saturday and subsequently traveled on Air Force One to Pennsylvania. The individual began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms yesterday.”
Saturday was the day of the Supreme Court announcement at the White House and President Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania. The President announced early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for Covid-19.
A third memo, at 3:35 p.m., said that a third member of the press corps has tested positive.
The individual was at the White House last Saturday and Sunday, and “began experiencing minor symptoms late Wednesday.”
CNN Business has reached out to major news networks and newspapers to ask about precautions they are taking.
A spokesperson for The Washington Post said, “We are working to identify Post journalists who may have come in contact with White House officials recently, to ensure that our colleagues are tested rapidly and fully supported.”
A person familiar with the matter at CBS News said the network is contact tracing and following company procedure for testing and quarantining, depending on the possible exposure.
And a spokesperson for NBC News said, “NBC News and MSNBC are following contact tracing guidelines as set forth by the CDC and the NBCUniversal Medical team and some employees will be self-quarantining out of an abundance of caution. We will also continue to follow WHCA guidelines on safely working and reporting from the White House.”
The correspondents association said “we can’t stress enough the importance of mask-wearing, social distancing and common sense, especially on the White House complex.”
“Additionally,” the board said, “we are again asking journalists who are not in the pool and do not have an enclosed workspace to refrain from working out of the White House at this time.”
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the correspondents association has taken a more proactive position than the Trump administration and has encouraged journalists to take common sense precautions while covering the administration.