Story at a glance
- This year’s inauguration ceremonies will be the first to be held virtually.
- Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, local leaders are asking Americans not to travel to the area and attend virtually instead.
- Security is tight following the insurrection on the United States Capitol last week by President Trump’s supporters.
President-elect Joe Biden’s vision of an “America United” hopes to bring the country together, even while many Americans remain apart due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As vaccinations are distributed across the country, the D.C. area had its deadliest day of the pandemic thus far on Tuesday as another 6,568 new cases were confirmed in the region.
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“The election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris was historic and we know that many Americans would have wanted to attend the Inauguration in-person. At the same time, safety must be our top priority,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who sits on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, in a statement. “While the pandemic has forced us to limit in-person attendance, it also brings opportunities to honor our democracy in innovative ways so that Americans across the country can experience Inauguration Day from home.”
The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) has announced "vigorous" health and safety protocols for the in-person events of the day, which includes the swearing-in ceremony, pass in review and presidential escort to the White House. After an invocation by Father Leo J. O’Donovan and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Andrea Hall, Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem, followed by a poetry reading by Amanda Gorman and musical performance by Jennifer Lopez on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, which will hold far fewer guests than in previous years.
In December, Congress announced that lawmakers would be limited to one guest each, compared to the 200,000 or so invitations extended in previous years. Capitol Police have restricted access to the West Front since September in anticipation of the inauguration, but a mesh fence and concrete wall were breached by President Trump's supporters during the insurrection at the Capitol. A new seven-foot "non-scalable" fence now surrounds Capitol grounds, as do National Guard troops.
Most of the festivities, which in the past would have included numerous balls and dinners, will take place on screens this year. The major networks, including ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC, will carry the primetime special, titled “Celebrating America,” live from 8:30 p.m. EST to 10 p.m. as well as several streaming services and social media channels. Between performances by Ant Clemons, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Justin Timberlake, the special will feature “frontline workers, health care workers, teachers, citizens giving back, and those who are breaking barriers,” according to the PIC.
“This inauguration presents a unique opportunity to spotlight the resilience and spirit of an America United. We have witnessed countless heroes this past year step up to the frontlines and serve their fellow Americans, so we are telling their stories, spreading their collective light, and celebrating the best of our country and its people with this prime-time program. Our first priority is safety — so while many of us will be watching safely from our homes, we are creating real moments of connection that highlight a new inclusive American era of leadership that works for and represents all Americans,” said PIC CEO Tony Allen in a statement.
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