Full volume: White House briefing room back to crammed again

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House briefing room on Monday might have been a fire marshal’s nightmare.

For the first time in 449 days, reporters could cram into every seat for the daily briefing. Coronavirus restrictions had kept one of the most recognized rooms in the U.S. government almost empty. But mass vaccinations allowed reporters to first doff their masks on May 13 and then nearly a month later to gather in a pack of raised hands, shouting, hard-eyed stares and the occasional grimace.

“Hope everyone’s cozy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at she stepped to the lectern.

Forty-nine journalists sat elbow-to-elbow in blue seats, while others stood on the edges. The loudspeaker before the briefing told reporters not to block the aisle, but no one budged.

The briefing marked something of a surreal return to business as usual for Joe Biden’s presidency. The president had vowed to overcome the pandemic, and one of the consequences of any success on that front inevitably was going be more questions from more reporters. Monday was proof of that as the hourlong briefing ran to roughly 58 sets of questions.

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