New vibe at White House: Hugs are in; masks are (mostly) out

  • FILE - In this May 20, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden holds House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand as they talk after signing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. In the background Vice President Kamala Harris hugs Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. Thanks to growing availability of the coronavirus vaccine and a recent relaxation of federal guidance on masks and distancing, the Biden administration is embracing the look and feel of pre-pandemic days on Pennsylvania Avenue. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON — A smiling crowd of unmasked people filling the largest room in the White House. A visiting head of state welcomed with pomp, circumstance and handshakes. A 94-year old Medal of Honor recipient receiving a joyous hug from Vice President Kamala Harris.