President Joe Biden kept his distance from the vice president and guests during a White House meeting with Asian American leaders — in the latest sign of how the Delta variant involves health precautions that the White House had jettisoned weeks ago.
The president sat in the center of a long table covered with a white cloth for his meeting with Asian-American, Hawaiian and Pacific leaders.
The press reporting the event was let in seconds before the president spoke with initial comments about the passing of AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka.
Officials set up a long rectangular table in the State Dining Room for Biden’s event featuring leaders from Asian-American, Hawaiian and Pacific Islands
The president sat about 10 feet away from his Vice President Kamala Harris, in a return to White House social distancing when vaccines weren’t nearly as widespread.
Harris and other officials were masked while Biden spoke.
Just two weeks ago, on July 20, it was a very different visual representation, with Biden’s top advisers all crammed into the cabinet room for a cabinet meeting.
The officials closest to Biden were across the room or at the very corner
It was a different story two weeks ago, when Biden and cabinet members broke into the White House cabinet room
The distance kept cheerful Biden far from other officials
The change reflects new CDC guidelines and new restrictions amid the spread of the Delta strain of the coronavirus.
White House employees are now masking in doors, in line with Washington, DC guidelines, given the many cases.
Those close to Biden are still being tested for COVID-19. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and cabinet secretaries accompanying her mask on her way to daily press conferences — but then removing them when onstage.
Several guidelines were on display for an outdoor event Biden held on electric cars later Thursday. There, lawmakers, including members of Congress, sat closer together, most of them not wearing masks outside.
Biden, after taking a ride in a Jeep electric vehicle, spoke unmasked to a group of reporters who gathered outside to get his comment.
After his comments, he spent several minutes talking up close, still outside, with former Capitol colleagues.
At another outdoor event, at the Rose Garden for officers who protected the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots, Biden shook hands and spoke to a line of officials and visitors to the event, who honored both those who lost their lives and the courage of those that protected the building.
At the earlier event, Biden spoke about hate attacks against groups of Asian Americans in recent years.
“Let me start by acknowledging that on this day, in 2012, I was with another half-Sikh friend — he’s a Sikh. And we were dealing with – dealing with the 10 people who were shot dead in a hateful act of bigotry at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Seven people lost their lives that day,” he said.
Today we honor everyone affected by this tragedy. And we think of all the pain during this pandemic, with the rise of hate crime, harassment, bullying and other forms of bias against Asian Americans. It doesn’t seem to stop.’
“And after the shooting in the Atlanta area, Kamala and I traveled to Atlanta, where we met a group of Asian-American leaders, some of whom are here. The discussion was very raw. It was powerful. And a common theme was that Asian Americans felt unsafe and unwanted, and some of you felt invisible at times.”
“Our message to you at that time was: we see you. We’ll see you,” he added.