Discussions are ongoing about requiring everyone to wear masks and stand at a social distance, according to interviews with a half dozen people involved in the planning. Those allowed near Biden for the inauguration ceremony will likely undergo coronavirus testing. The traditional post-swearing-in luncheon, held in Statuary Hall with members of Congress, could be scrapped altogether. There may not be any inaugural balls. Crowds, in all cases, will likely be severely limited.

Biden advisers are almost certain President Trump will not attend Biden’s swearing-in. They find it hard to imagine the traditional tea beforehand at the White House, the typical drive together to the Capitol, or Trump allowing any image of himself looking on as Biden is sworn into office.

Those close to Biden insist that the ceremony must still have the august feeling of past inaugurations — a desire that is all the more important to establish his legitimacy as president, which Trump is continuing to deny. But that quest is complicated by another urgent demand: to adhere to public health guidelines that Biden embraced throughout his run for the presidency and wants to showcase at the start of his administration.