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White House briefing room returns to full capacity

Full capacity returns to White house briefing room
White House press secretary addresses full briefing room for the first time 02:32

The White House's James S. Brady Press Briefing Room has returned to full capacity for the first time in over a year, allowing more reporters from more outlets to ask questions to White House press secretary Jen Psaki and other top administration officials. 

For over a year, news outlets with designated seats had been rotating briefing room coverage Monday through Friday. The briefing room only recently returned to 50% capacity, which allowed all networks to have a seat in every briefing. The room has 49 seats, but on Monday, reporters stood in the aisle on either sides of the chairs, too. Seating had been restricted since March 16, 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic under the Trump administration.

"I'm very thrown off to where everyone's seated — I'll adjust to it," Psaki joked before fielding questions. 

The White House had already done away with requirements for masks for fully vaccinated staff and media. The White House's North Lawn and indoor workspace for journalists has also returned to 100%. 

According to the White House Correspondents Association, more than 98% of 500 members who responded to a survey are now fully vaccinated. The White House Correspondents Association is run by journalists elected by fellow journalists, independent from any presidential administration. 

The White House is not requiring media members to provide proof of vaccination. 

Psaki has resumed the practice of the daily briefing, something that was less frequent under former President Trump. During the height of the pandemic, however, Mr. Trump himself frequently took to the podium for briefings that reached roughly two hours in length.

But the White House isn't the only center of power in D.C. where things are beginning to return to normal. On the Senate side of Capitol Hill, senators, staff and reporters who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks or socially distance. 

On the House side, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is, for now, keeping a requirement that members and staff wear masks on the House floor and in the halls, given that a significant portion of House Republicans have not confirmed their vaccination status. Some Republicans have protested the mask mandate and defied it.

Across the street at the Supreme Court, things are even more restricted. The Supreme Court has been closed since March 2020, holding arguments remotely. The court has not announced any plans for reopening, even though all the justices are vaccinated. The justices took their annual photo together in April, but that's the last time they've been pictured together. 

Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.

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