Three blocks from the White House, office space for more than 500 Biden shift workers is largely vacant.
The government is delivering laptops so workers can work from home.
US President Joe Biden, surrounded by just a handful of support in Delaware, is using Zoom to monitor his plans to take power.
But Biden will soon be entering a motionless zone at the White House – just one indication of the challenges his new administration will face when he moves to Washington in the midst of a pandemic.
After months of influencing the cautious approach taken by the campaign and its transition team toward COVID-19, Biden’s temperance will be proven by technology and tradition when it arrives on January 20th.
White House computers will not release the popular Zoom video conferencing software or competing systems such as Google Meet and Slack. Cell phones issued by the Government only acquired texting capabilities a few years ago. And many employees have to be present at the White House to access classified information.
Biden’s team has little experience working in a corporate office during the pandemic. His campaign took off completely in mid-March, clearing his Philadelphia headquarters and sending employees back to their families in Washington, New York and beyond. His transition team planned his path to power completely online.
Biden’s closest team has been trying out personal work as election night, when a small selection of intriguing and remotely social aids in Wilmington, Delaware, monitored returns in rooms. hotel conference, a long cry from running White House 24/7.
Even now, the most obvious use of the 9,290 square meters (100,000-plus square feet) of office space reserved for the move is that Vice President Kamala Harris will receive a summary daily President.
Health and safety protocols from the outset
Telework is possible for some White House staff, and there have been improvements in secure and unencumbered video conferencing over the past two decades. But a lack of personal coordination could pose an additional challenge to the new government involved in many crises.
Making matters more complicated, the Biden team needs to design health and safety protocols from the outset. The Trump administration was, at best, a warning story about how it should not run a workplace during a pandemic.
Despite relying on an aggressive test schedule not available elsewhere, the West Wing under President Donald Trump has been replaced by at least two major outbreaks of COVID-19 since Trump himself contracted the virus five weeks before Election Day.
In addition to the first family, the dozens in Trump’s well-proven world include the White House chief of staff, the vice president’s chief of staff, the White House press secretary and the president’s campaign manager. But more supporters need to be separated after they emerge. The full scale of the diseases is not known for sure.
The problems came largely from Trump’s White House introducing its own guidelines for the safety of COVID-19, including holding major events, allowing frequent travel and above all without the need for exotic faces. Biden’s team believes that some of the greatest risk can be mitigated simply by adhering to scientific advice: keeping events safer, requiring face coverage and continuing with regular testing.
Planning has begun
White House veterans say work to make the West Wing a safe place to work is but requires strong discipline, among White House workers and hundreds of government employees from other federal agencies. which supports it.
Detailed design is still ongoing, but there are some early considerations in reducing the number of staff with unprotected access to the West Wing, encouraging remote working where appropriate. able and even staff to use secure conferencing between individual offices to minimize the use of common areas.
Biden’s team may receive a blueprint of sorts for the use of COVID-19 vaccines from Trump’s White House, which is beginning to spread inoculations for some government emergency workers, including military support to the president, Secret Service representatives and Situation Room surveillance officers. .
Biden himself is likely to receive at least the first dose of the vaccine before taking office, subject to advice from a leading U.S. infectious disease expert in the country. Dr Anthony Fauci called on Biden and Harris to get the vaccine quickly.
“For security reasons, I very much feel that we should get the vaccine as soon as we can,” Fauci told ABC News Tuesday. “You want him to be fully protected as he takes over the presidency in January.”
Move into the White House
The Bidens ’move into the White House – a stressful process even in normal times – will be more complicated this year.
The West Wing will be cleared from top to bottom in the hours after Trump leaves the building and before Biden’s team moves in. Public health experts say it is important that further steps are taken to reduce the spread of the disease at the time of that change.
One deputy official said the White House’s ventilation system, hardened against chemical and biological hazards, is of less concern than in conventional buildings, but Biden’s team poses no risk.
“The two things to consider are cleaning all surfaces, especially high-friction areas such as door knots… and dispersing them through aerosols and the potential for aerosolas to land in the air. between the two transitions if someone there is currently ill, “said Dr. Abraar Karan, a global health expert at Brigham and Women ‘s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.” Full air exchange, filtration and open ventilation will be essential. between cleaning and moving into the new primary family. “
The entire move is usually completed in about five to six hours, said Kate Andersen Brower, author of “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House.” For security reasons, White House housing workers make a transfer day – a pledge that lists everyone from construction engineers to kitchen workers.
“In the past, there was literally a moving truck in the South Lawn entrance and one in the north entrance,” she said. “It’s very much a manipulative situation.”