Trump White House restarts tours, with pandemic restrictions

FILE PHOTO: A view of the White House by night in Washington, U.S., November 16, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s administration will restart tours of the White House on Sept. 12 with new restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus, according to an announcement released on Tuesday.

Tours at the usually bustling White House complex, where Trump lives and works, were suspended after COVID-19 began spreading throughout the country. At the same time, some White House officials have tested positive for the disease, which has killed more than 180,000 people in the United States, and media organizations have limited the number of journalists showing up each day.

On Thursday, though, Trump opened the White House to more of the public, hosting the last night of his Republican party’s national convention on its South Lawn. He gave his renomination acceptance speech in front of more than 1,000 people sitting close together, most of them without face coverings.

The resumed public tours will only take place on Friday and Saturday mornings, with roughly a fifth of the usual number of guests allowed in.

Guests must wear face coverings and follow dots on the floor to remain socially distant when they check in. Federal employees along the self-guided tour route will wear face coverings and gloves, and hand sanitizer will be available, according to the announcement.

The White House has generally welcomed the public, but access has been reduced over the years to protect its residents. Famously, President Andrew Jackson, who has served as an inspiration for Trump, hosted 20,000 people for his Inauguration Day party in 1829, serving whiskey in bathtubs on the lawn. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, visitors have had to reserve tours months in advance through a member of Congress and undergo background checks.

Public tours of the Library of Congress and the U.S. Capitol remain suspended, according to their websites.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert; editing by Jonathan Oatis