The Presidential Inaugural Committee for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is urging Americans not to travel to Washington D.C. this year to see the event in person, due to the continued presence of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Inaugural Committee will produce a ceremony that will instead adhere to “vigorous health and safety protocols” to prevent would-be attendees from contracting the virus, the group said on Tuesday.
Biden’s and Harris’s inaugurations, set to take place on January 20, will still have some pomp and flair to it, but people’s presence at the event will be curtailed to a great degree.
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“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,” Inaugural Committee CEO Tony Allen said in a statement.
In a series of tweets, the official Biden Inaugural Committee Twitter account (@BidenInaugural) expounded on the announcement, describing the changes to the ceremony as a means to “protect the health and safety of Americans, while demonstrating the strength and resilience of our country.”
“While the inauguration will look different, we will continue to honor the inaugural traditions Americans have always known: an official outdoor swearing-in ceremony, community service events, a reimagined parade, and virtual celebrations that bring the country together,” the Twitter account explained.
More details about the event will be released in the coming weeks, the committee also said.
The precautions for COVID-19 that Biden’s inauguration team is taking is a stark departure from what President Donald Trump’s efforts on the virus have looked like over the past year.
His recent actions highlight just how minimal the president’s efforts have been: over the past couple of weeks, the president has hosted a number of holiday parties at the White House where social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing to prevent the spread of coronavirus have often been ignored.
Such gatherings at the White House have been widely criticized in the past. A similar event held at the president’s residence earlier this year, in which he introduced Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, was widely believed to have been a “superspreader” event that resulted in the virus spreading far and wide across the country, carried by attendees at the event.
Throughout his last year in office, Trump has been seriously misleading Americans about the dangers posed by coronavirus, including about the methods best suited to limit its spread. In part because of his disinformation campaign on the virus, PolitiFact named “coronavirus downplay and denial” the organization’s “Lie of the Year” for 2020.
“Lies infected America in 2020. The very worst were not just damaging, but deadly,” PolitiFact wrote in its assessment.
While the organization took care to note that the “infodemic was not the work of a single person,” PolitiFact also pointed out that it was Trump himself who frequently embraced and spread untrue conspiracy theories about coronavirus, and undermined the work of health workers and experts during the crisis.
In the article detailing the Lie of the Year, PolitiFact showcased how Trump made frequent (and erroneous) comparisons of coronavirus to the flu, habitually refused to wear a mask in public settings (at one point decrying facial coverings as a political statement against his presidency), and often shared disinformation, such as wrongly alleging that COVID-19 death numbers were inflated.
Additionally, the organization noted how Trump admitted to journalist Bob Woodward earlier this year that he purposely downplayed the severity of COVID-19 while speaking to the public.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 16.7 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 303,963 have died from the virus so far.
At the beginning of the crisis, Trump had said that the spread of coronavirus would probably be limited to 15 cases, and be “close to zero” within a matter of days. By April, when it was clear that it wasn’t going to be the case, Trump said that deaths from the virus wouldn’t exceed 100,000.
In addition to the number that have died so far, it’s estimated that around 80,000 more Americans will die from COVID by the time Trump leaves office.