Biden inaugural planners urge Americans to stay home, limit gatherings during ceremony

WASHINGTON – The committee planning President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration urges Americans not to travel to Washington for the festivities but to participate in the celebration virtually.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in Jan. 20 in a ceremony on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol that will include vigorous health and safety protocols because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Tuesday.

Biden will deliver an address that lays out his vision for beating the virus, building back better and bringing the country together, the committee said.

The ceremony’s footprint will be limited, and the traditional inaugural parade that follows will be reimagined, the committee said.

“The pandemic is continuing to have a significant public health impact across the nation,” said David Kessler, a former surgeon general and the committee’s chief medical adviser.

“Americans everywhere must do their part to slow the spread of the virus: Wear masks, stay home and limit gatherings,” Kessler said. “We are asking Americans to participate in inaugural events from home to protect themselves, their families, friends and communities.”

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President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration will be a scaled-down event.

Presidential inaugurations typically are attended by hundreds of dignitaries – including former presidents, Supreme Court justices and members of Congress – while hundreds of thousands of spectators spill out across the National Mall to witness the ceremonies. The crowd at Barack Obama’s first inauguration was estimated at a record-shattering 1.8 million.

Biden said he wants people to celebrate his inauguration, but many events will probably be held virtually.

Though details have not been announced, planners expect the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to be smaller than in previous years because of the health risks posed by COVID-19, which has infected more than 16.5 million Americans and killed more than 300,000.

The inaugural committee tapped Stephanie Cutter and Ricky Kirshner to serve as the inauguration's executive producers, and Rod O’Connor will serve as senior adviser. The trio, who have produced Super Bowl halftime shows, the Tony Awards and other presidential inaugurations, helped put together the Democratic National Convention in August, which was transformed from an in-person extravaganza to a largely virtual event.

"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 Tony Allen, the inaugural committee’s chief executive officer.

Departing presidents traditionally attend their successor's swearing-in. But President Donald Trump has refused to concede that he lost the election Nov. 3 and hasn't said whether he will attend Biden's ceremony.

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