When Your West Wing Job Is Really, Really Far From the Oval Office

Because of the pandemic, some Biden administration officials continue to work from homes a long way from Washington. They see advantages in being outside the bubble.


By Annie Karni

WASHINGTON — Emmy Ruiz, 37, was shoveling snow into a bucket in her backyard one frigid morning last month with her toddler while dialing into a conference call for work.

During the power crisis in Texas after a winter storm that left millions without heat or electricity, Ms. Ruiz’s house in Austin lacked water for days. She was collecting snow to melt so her family could flush the toilets.

It is not how one would necessarily picture the White House’s director of political strategy and outreach spending her workday, but nothing about this year has been typical for those who have joined the Biden administration.

Many members of the White House staff have been working remotely because of strict coronavirus protocols instituted to reduce the number of people in the building with the president. But Ms. Ruiz is one of dozens of administration officials who have not moved to Washington at all.

More than seven weeks after President Biden took office, White House staff members are working from California, Puerto Rico, Texas and elsewhere around the country, a striking indication of the strange reality of building a new administration during a pandemic as well as the sharp shift from the Trump administration’s casual approach to dealing with the coronavirus.

Many Biden officials have never met in person with colleagues they interact with on a daily basis. Gina McCarthy, the White House national climate adviser, has met her chief of staff only on a video screen.

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