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Joe Biden is expected to begin his term as the 46th president on Jan. 20, when he is scheduled to be sworn into office amid an inauguration ceremony unlike any other in recent memory.
The coronavirus pandemic will transform the traditions long associated with inaugural celebrations. In fact, Biden’s transition team is urging all Americans to stay home, refrain from travel and limit gatherings during the inauguration to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Galas and balls may be canceled entirely. Some events such as the parade on Pennsylvania Avenue are expected to occur in a smaller and potentially distant form. Other celebratory components may be virtual, drawing inspiration from the Democratic National Convention’s online event. And people interested in coming to D.C. for the 59th presidential inauguration will have to navigate coronavirus travel restrictions. Here’s a look at what is known so far.
Who is organizing the ceremony?
The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) is responsible for planning the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol on Jan. 20. The theme of the swearing-in ceremony will be “Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union.”
The six-member committee is led by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Biden’s Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), formally launched Nov. 30, is responsible for coordinating and funding the inauguration’s opening ceremonies, parades, galas and balls (if they exist this year). The PIC is led by Tony Allen, the president of Delaware State University, who served as a special assistant and speechwriter for Biden during four years of his career in the Senate.
Where will Biden be sworn in?
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris are slated to be sworn in during a ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol, according to the JCCIC.
Biden’s PIC said he will give an inaugural address from the platform that has been built there for the ceremony. Attendance, which will be limited, will include other elected officials.
Will President Trump attend the inauguration?
President Trump has said in a tweet that he will not attend the ceremony. Trump will become the first president to skip his successor’s inauguration since Andrew Johnson decided not to attend the ceremony for incoming President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869.
Trump has spent weeks after the election using the power of his office to try to reverse the results, attacking the integrity of the vote with unfounded conspiracy theories.
Traditionally, the outgoing president welcomes his successor to the White House on the morning of the inauguration. President Barack Obama hosted President-elect Donald Trump for tea in 2017 before they traveled together to the U.S. Capitol.
Who else may attend the ceremony?
It is unclear whether past presidents will attend for fear that the event would be potentially risky to their health because of the coronavirus pandemic. Spokespeople for former presidents George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Obama did not respond to requests for comment, according to The Post’s Matt Viser.
Will there be the traditional events and inaugural balls?
It is unclear what, if any, balls will be held. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which for years has hosted inaugural balls, will be unavailable for festivities in January. It has been transformed into an emergency field hospital in preparation for a surge in coronavirus cases.
Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of Biden’s inaugural committee, said he expects 75 to 80 percent of inaugural activities to be virtual. He suggested that a more complete celebration of Biden’s presidency could occur July 4.
“Hopefully, things will be under control then,” he said on CNN.
Will there be a parade?
Biden’s PIC said there will be a parade of some sort, but it probably will be more virtual than physical and feature people from across the country. It is expected to be like the virtual roll call held at the Democratic National Convention in August.
The District has repaved Pennsylvania Avenue in preparation for the parade.
Earlier, the Biden team discussed organizing a parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House to discourage a large gathering of supporters on the Mall.
The city has said it is preparing for the parade to occur in some form but is waiting for direction from the PIC.
How can a member of the public attend?
The JCCIC recently announced that attendance at the inauguration will be strictly limited because of the pandemic. Traditionally, the JCCIC makes 200,000 tickets available to members of Congress to hand out to constituents for the ceremony, but this year each member of Congress may attend with a single guest. The JCCIC said the size of the crowd will resemble that for a State of the Union.
However, commemorative ticket bundles and program packets will be made available to congressional offices to distribute to constituents following the ceremonies.
The PIC handles ticketing for parades, balls and galas. In the past, members of the public without tickets have been able to access certain areas of the Mall to watch the ceremony and related events.
Biden has predicted that the event will be closer to the Democratic National Convention’s virtual format than to typical inaugurations. “It’s highly unlikely there will be 1 million people on the Mall,” he said.
What restrictions are in place for people planning to visit Washington for the ceremony?
If you are planning on traveling to D.C. for the inauguration, the District’s rules require that you get a negative coronavirus test before coming to Washington. If you are staying longer than three days, D.C. rules say that you must receive another coronavirus test in the city. D.C. also currently requires a 14-day quarantine for visitors coming from certain states. The list of states can be found here.
Biden’s PIC has named David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner who has been advising Biden on the coronavirus, to be the inauguration’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 in a statement. “We are asking Americans to participate in inaugural events from home to protect themselves, their families, friends, and communities.”