White House requires rapid coronavirus testing of staff — and reporters — near Trump

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin delivers remarks alongside President Donald Trump during a briefing on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/TNS)
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By Michael Wilner McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The White House required that journalists on Thursday take a rapid coronavirus test before participating in the news briefing frequently attended by President Donald Trump.

The White House Medical Unit decided to order the tests after one correspondent who was at a news briefing earlier this week reported symptoms. That reporter’s coronavirus test result came back negative, the White House Correspondents’ Association said late Thursday after reporters attending the briefing had already been tested.

The decision to provide reporters with rapid tests, which produce results in approximately 15 minutes, was made “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the White House media office. The tests were conducted on all reporters, photographers and technicians “with absolute privacy in a vacant office” in the West Wing, the White House said in a statement.

One reporter who received the test said they were brought to a closed-door room where White House media staff sometimes work, and were administered the nasal swab test. No paperwork or personal signatures were required, but the reporters were asked to provide their cellphone numbers so that they could be informed if the test results came back positive.

While the tests are not expected to become a regular occurrence before the daily White House briefings — which regularly feature Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — the medical unit will likely evaluate on a day-to-day basis during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision comes as the administration implements a new policy for White House staff, requiring that anyone working near Trump or Pence must take one of the rapid tests.

“Starting today, anyone who is expected to be in close proximity to either of them will be administered a COVID-19 test to evaluate for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers status to limit inadvertent transmission,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, told McClatchy.

Trump and Pence have been tested for the novel coronavirus. The tests have come back negative. Last week, Trump said he tried out the rapid test developed by Abbott Laboratories, and praised that the results were produced within minutes.

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