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COVID-19 rules enforced, Oval Office redesigned as Biden moves in to White House

Behind President Joe Biden is a bust of Mexican-American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, one of the many aesthetic changes made to the Oval Office by the new administration. Pool photo by Doug Mills/UPI
Behind President Joe Biden is a bust of Mexican-American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, one of the many aesthetic changes made to the Oval Office by the new administration. Pool photo by Doug Mills/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The incoming Biden administration is making changes to how business as usual will be conducted in the White House, including enforcing stricter COVID-19 regulations compared to its Trump administration predecessor and redesigning the Oval Office.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during her first press briefing Wednesday evening that all staff will be required to undergo daily COVID-19 testing and wear N95 masks as well as follow "stringent" social distancing procedures to ensure the president, his staff and others in the White House are safe.

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"The president has asked us to also be models for the American people and that's vitally important to us as well," she said. "So there are a number of new COVID steps, precautions that we've put in place as of today."

A copy of the guidelines emailed to staffers and seen by Axios states they will be administered 15-minute rapid antigen tests at the White House medical office and those who regularly visit the building will be encouraged to schedule their tests.

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Staffers in the tight confines of the West Wing will also be required to maintain 6 feet of distance at all times and those who have yet to be vaccinated will soon be eligible, Axios reported.

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"For those of you who have not yet received your first vaccine, we will follow up in the coming days with information on how to do so," the guidelines reportedly said.

The coronavirus regulations are a subtle yet significant difference to how the White House will be run differently under President Joe Biden compared to how it was under President Donald Trump who was among those of his administration and staff to test positive for the virus.

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The changes continued into the aesthetics of the Oval Office, whose walls are now adorned with portraits and tables now prop up the busts of important American figures through history reflecting the president Biden will strive to be, The Washington Post reported.

"It was important for President Biden to walk into an Oval that looked like America and started to show the landscape of who he is going to be as president," Ashley Williams, deputy director of Oval Office operations, told The Washington Post during an exclusive tour of the room.

Biden sat behind the Resolute Desk on Wednesday to sign a slew of executive orders to undo several of those signed by his predecessor, and noticeable behind him was a bust of Mexican-American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.

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Across from the Resolute Desk, a portrait of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt now hangs.

Throughout the room are also the busts of Martin Luther King, Jr., Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Washington Post reported.

Gone is the portrait Trump hung of former President Andrew Jackson now replaced with a picture of Benjamin Franklin, a bust of Winston Churchill, flags of the military branches and light gold drapes, though the latter has been replaced by curtains of a deeper shade that had shielded the windows during the Clinton administration.

The White House website also underwent an overhaul that includes a new dark mode and the ability to toggle font size.

Concerning Vice President Kamala Harris, she and the second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, have postponed moving into the Naval Observatory, the vice president's accommodation on White House grounds, to allow for repairs according to her office, Politico reported.

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Her office said the house built in 1893 requires maintenance and chimney liner repairs and it was unclear if and when the vice president would move in.

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