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Biden Inaugural Committee Urges Americans to Stay Home on Big Day

December 15, 2020 by Dan McCue
Inaugural preparations underway at the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 12, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden’s Inaugural Committee on Tuesday offered a first glimpse at detailed plans for a scaled down inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Its main advice to Americans who want to be a part of this historic moment: Stay home, refrain from travel, and limit gatherings.

In short, tune in to watch the ceremony on your television or favorite streaming device.

The committee said President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take their oaths of office at the U.S. Capitol during a ceremony that will follow vigorous health and safety protocols.

The newly sworn-in president will then deliver an inaugural address that “lays out his vision to beat the virus, build back better, and bring the country together.”

Aside from those key events, the ceremony’s footprint will be extremely limited, and the parade that follows will be reimagined, the committee said.

“Our goal is to create an inauguration that keeps people safe, honors the grand traditions of the presidency, and showcases the Biden-Harris Administration’s renewed American vision for an inclusive, equitable, and unified citizenry,” said PIC CEO Tony Allen in a written statement.

Last month, Biden’s incoming chief of staff Ron Klain said the event would be similar to this year’s Democratic National Convention, which was almost entirely virtual.

“I think we’ll have some mix of those techniques, some mix of, you know, scaled-down versions of the existing traditions,” Klain said.

On Tuesday, Dr. David Kessler, newly hired to serve as the inaugural committee’s chief medical advisor, said the pandemic is continuing to have a significant public health impact across the nation, and as a result, “Americans everywhere must do their part to slow the spread of the virus: wear masks, stay home, and limit gatherings.”

Kessler, a former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and health and safety advisor to the Biden campaign, went on to say, “We are asking Americans to participate in inaugural events from home to protect themselves, their families, friends, and communities.”

The events that will take place are being planned in coordination with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

As for the parade and other events that typically accompany an inaugural, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said it has hired a team of seasoned production experts to put together “a new and innovative program” that will provide opportunities for all Americans to participate safely in the inauguration.

Stephanie Cutter and Ricky Kirshner, who spearheaded the production of the Democratic National Convention, will serve as executive producers of the inaugural, with Rod O’Connor as senior adviser.

The committee said the trio has assembled a diverse group of award-winning professionals with decades of experience envisioning and producing some of the nation’s most-watched events, including presidential inaugurations, Super Bowl halftime shows and the Tony Awards.

 Details of what they have planned will be announced in coming weeks, the committee said.

Meanwhile, the unavoidably low-key nature of the event is having a profound ripple effect in Washington, D.C.

Many of the traditional venues for inaugural balls and other events remained closed due to the pandemic, and businesses that would have provided staff or services to said events have told The Well News they will likely be sitting out this year’s festivities.

“Normally this close to an inauguration, we would be overbooked, both in terms of party rental equipment and catering,” one DC area businessman said, speaking on background. “This year we don’t have any events planned.”

The pandemic is also having an impact on lobbyists, business leaders and even diplomats who often use events surrounding an inauguration to make connections with an incoming administration.

“You’re not getting the invitation to attend the big party and engage with lots of people involved in government,” said a staffer attached to a local embassy. “At the same time, there are far fewer opportunities for the more informal, accidental meetings that might happen in other circumstances.

“That’s the main difference between the upcoming inauguration and those in the past,” he said. “Of course, because it impacts all of us equally, it isn’t problematic, it just is what it is.”

Elliot L. Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC, the non-profit formally known as the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corporation, said when visitors come to the city for an inauguration “they usually stay in hotels for multiple nights, dine out and experience our attractions in addition to official and ancillary inaugural events.”

This year, however, everyone knew the 2021 inauguration experience would depend heavily on what people are able to do in the city based on the state of the viral outbreak.

“Since the pandemic began, visitor spending in DC is down $4.8 billion,” Ferguson said. “So even if COVID-19 prevents some of the typical celebratory events, the hope is that it will help offset some of the deep economic losses we’ve seen so far.” 

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