‘It’s a mad dash’: How a team of 90 will prep White House for the Bidens, including a Covid deep clean

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Stuti Mishra
·2 min read
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<p>West wing of the White House on Trump’s last full day in office</p> (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

West wing of the White House on Trump’s last full day in office

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

As the clock ticks down on President Donald Trump’s final hour at the White House, a team of 90 people is ready to pack and send off all of his and first lady Melania Trump’s things and prepare the place for the incoming president and his wife, in a process that is nothing less of a “mad dash”.

The White House residence staff, whose job not just involves changing the furniture and decorations, has an additional responsibility this time — of deep cleaning of the entire premise due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A report by the New York Times, quoting the staff, states the the Bidens will move into the White House after inauguration, as is the tradition, but a change in interior or personalisation of the space may not take place immediately. Generally, the 132-room house has some elements of personalisation, the staff told NYT.

“It’s a mad dash,” Betty Monkman, a White House curator for more than three decades, was quoted by NYT as saying. “Sometimes beds have to be brought in, sitting rooms are converted into bedrooms.”

Mr Trump will leave for Mar-a-Lago early in the morning before the inauguration, which he has decided not to attend, breaking a long running tradition. However, that’s not the only tradition the Trump family will be breaking during the transition.

Jill Biden, the next first lady, hasn’t been invited by Ms Trump to the White House, a custom generally followed by the outgoing first lady.

“Mrs Trump should have invited Dr Biden in for the traditional coffee,” Capricia Marshall, who served as White House’s social secretary in the Clinton administration, told NYT.

“Typically, she would come prepared with questions, she’ll meet and talk to the chef, the full time residence staff and have an opportunity for them to break the ice. It’s a courtesy, but logistically it’s incredibly helpful. That didn’t happen,” said Ms Marshall.

However, the transition team of Mr Biden has been in touch with the chief usher of the White House, Timothy Harleth, who has been an employee of the Trump international hotel in Washington and was hired by Ms Trump in 2017 in a rare move.

Generally the chief usher at the Whie House has been a nonpolitical public servant, often with a military background, who does not turn over with administrations, the NYT report notes, but Mr Harleth will be working for the next administration.

The five-hour exercise of packing things up and unpacking bags may also be affected by the toned down nature of the inauguration as there are no parades or a formal lunch at the Capitol, but the early departure of the Trump family may give the staff some extra time in hand.

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