BuzzFeed News has pulled a political correspondent from the White House press pool, citing concerns that the area has become a coronavirus hot zone after President Trump, many of his top aides — including the press secretary Kayleigh McEnany — and several journalists have tested positive for the virus.
A BuzzFeed News spokesman, Matt Mittenthal, confirmed that the company on Tuesday had withdrawn the correspondent, Kadia Goba, from her Wednesday shift out of concern for her safety. The spokesman added that BuzzFeed News was awaiting further guidance from the White House Correspondents’ Association.
Reporters rotate into the White House press pool, a group of journalists that represents the wider corps to share coverage of the president and the day’s events. The pool includes representatives of wire news services, newspapers and news sites, as well as television and radio outlets.
“Anyone that knows me understands I’d rather be at the White House working today,” Ms. Goba said, “but at the same time, there are obvious concerns about working indoors during an outbreak.”
She added, “I don’t want to be knocked out for the rest of the election because I’m sick.”
After BuzzFeed News notified other news organizations on Tuesday that its reporter would not work her shift, an email circulated among members of the press pool asking for someone to fill in.
“We are in uncharted territory,” Todd J. Gillman, the Washington bureau chief of The Dallas Morning News, who coordinates the print pool, wrote in the email, which was reviewed by The New York Times.
“No one wants anyone to take unwarranted risk,” he added. “Nor do we want the pool system to collapse.”
The Politico White House reporter Meridith McGraw volunteered for press-pool duty and covered the White House in place of the BuzzFeed correspondent on Wednesday.
“Politico has taken, and will continue to take, all necessary precautions to keep our journalists and staff as safe as possible,” Politico said in a statement. “Witnessing events unfolding at the White House is valuable for us, the press corps, Americans, and the world at such a critical moment in our nation’s history. We will continue to follow WHCA guidelines on safely reporting from the White House as the situation continues to develop.”
In addition to the president and Ms. McEnany, the coronavirus outbreak has ensnared nearly a dozen members of the Trump administration. Two other members of the White House press team, including a relative of Ms. McEnany’s, are known to have tested positive. At least three journalists who have covered the White House reported that they were infected, including Michael D. Shear, a reporter at The Times.
In a statement on Wednesday, the White House Correspondents’ Association said that dozens of tests had been conducted on members of its press corps since Friday, and that there had been no additional cases of the coronavirus.
White House Coronavirus Outbreak
The association continued to encourage the wearing of masks and the use of regular testing on Wednesday, and said it had pushed the White House to give the press corps more information about known infections so that journalists could evaluate the risk.
“Still, despite everything we’ve experienced in recent days, 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 statement said.
“That means that we as a press corps, and each of us individually, must be cleareyed about the potential risks of Covid exposure on the job, taking every precaution we can to fulfill our coverage obligations while being prepared for situations with which we may not be comfortable.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association statement also said that reporters “have worked under challenging circumstances to sustain the pool” during the pandemic, while noting that the press pool is “vital to the American public.”
Still, the statement said, “we would also strongly encourage all journalists to avoid working from the White House grounds entirely if it can be avoided.”