Coronavirus guidelines now the rule at White House

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Doug Emhoff, left, Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden, bow their heads in prayer during a virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service, in the State Dinning Room of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON – Testing wristbands are in. Mask-wearing is mandatory. Desks are socially distanced.

The clearest sign that there's a new boss at the White House is the deference being paid to coronavirus public health guidelines.

It’s a striking contrast to Donald Trump’s White House, which was the epicenter of no less than three separate outbreaks of COVID-19, their true scale not fully known because aides refused to discuss cases publicly.

While the Trump administration was known for flouting safety recommendations, the Biden team has made a point of abiding by the same strict guidelines they’re urging Americans to follow to stem the spread of the virus.

It’s part of an overall effort from President Joe Biden to lead by example on the coronavirus pandemic, an ethos carried over from his campaign and transition.

“One of the great tragedies of the Trump administration was a refusal to recognize that many Americans model the behavior of our leadership," said Ben LaBolt, a former press secretary to President Barack Obama who worked on the Biden transition.

“The Biden administration understands the powerful message that adhering to their own guidelines and modeling the best public health behavior sends, and knows that that’s the best path to climbing out of this until we can get a shot in the arm of every American.”

To that end, most of Biden’s White House staff is working from home, coordinating with colleagues by email or phone. While the White House aims to have more people working onsite next week, officials intend to operate with substantially reduced staffing for the duration of the pandemic.