White House reopens to public tours with compulsory face masks and social distancing

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White House reopens to public tours with numbers slashes, compulsory face masks and social distancing in contrast to Donald Trump’s RNC speech to 1,500 crowded on South Lawn

  • Melania Trump announced public tours of the White House will resume 
  • Face masks and social distancing will be required
  • Tours begin Saturday, September 12, and will only take place two days a week
  • Tours will also run at 18 per cent capacity
  • First lady’s restrictions are in contrast to last week, when President Trump spoke before nearly 2,000 guests with little social distancing and few face masks 
  • South Lawn was crowded with people for Trump’s acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention, which the first lady attended

Melania Trump announced on Tuesday that public tours of the White House will resume next Saturday with face coverings and social distancing required.

That is in marked contrast to President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention last Thursday when nearly 2,000 people crowded the South Lawn of the White House with little social distancing, few face masks and few COVID tests administered. 

Tours of the state rooms of the White House will begin on Saturday, September 12, and the number of people able to take them cut down drastically. 

Melania Trump announced public tours of the White House will resume on Saturday, September 12, with face masks and social distancing required

Not all tours have resumed at popular tourist destinations in the nation’s capitol – the U.S. Capitol building, for example, remains closed to the public. 

Additional safety measures were announced by the first lady’s office – which oversees tours – to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus during the White House tours. 

  • Tours will be hosted two days a week instead of five, on Friday and Saturday, from 8:00AM to 11:00AM. 
  • Number of guests is limited to 18% of normal capacity. 
  • All guests (ages 2 years and over) are required to wear a face covering and practice social distancing during their visit to the White House complex. 
  • Social distancing dots will be placed on the ground for guests during the check-in process.
  • National Park Service, U.S. Secret Service Officers, and Visitors Office staff working the tour route will wear face coverings, gloves, and encourage social distancing when engaging with guests on complex. 
  • Hand sanitizer will be available in multiple locations.

Melania Trump was early to embrace the recommended restrictions to help combat the pandemic. 

She encouraged people to wear face masks and was photographer wearing one. She also had her staff and the staff she oversees – including those in the White House residence – wear masks and work from home when possible.

Her announcement about the tours comes after the president’s speech last week, which the first lady attended, where few of the guests were seen sporting face masks and were crowded together on the White House lawn. 

Row after row of white folding chairs were set up on the south lawn with a bottle of water with a red elephant logo on the seats. The chairs were only inches apart. 

Row after row of white folding chairs were set up on the South Lawn, with no social distancing during President Trump's speech to the Republican National Convention last week

Row after row of white folding chairs were set up on the South Lawn, with no social distancing during President Trump’s speech to the Republican National Convention last week

Very few guests in the crowd of nearly 2,000 people wore face masks to hear the president's remarks

Very few guests in the crowd of nearly 2,000 people wore face masks to hear the president’s remarks

Melania Trump was on hand last Thursday to listen to the president accept the Republican nomination for a second term

Melania Trump was on hand last Thursday to listen to the president accept the Republican nomination for a second term

The first lady was early to encourage people to wear face masks, posting to social media

The first lady was early to encourage people to wear face masks, posting to social media

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said a ‘number’ of people at the invitation-only event would be tested, which he said was ‘pretty safe’ given the ‘circumstances.’

‘There are a number of folks that’ll be tested. A number of folks that’ll be encouraged to wear masks. And to that extent, I think it’s a pretty safe environment given the circumstances,’ he told reporters at the White House on Thursday evening before the event.

Asked whether that means some, but not all, attendees will be tested, Meadows replied: ‘I didn’t say that. … I chose my words carefully.’

Washington D.C. limits gatherings to 50 people but, because the White House is the property of the federal government, it is not subject to those restrictions.  

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