With the 2020 presidential election achieving one of the highest voter turnouts in U.S. history, you may expect President-elect Joe Biden to celebrate his win alongside a particularly large audience during Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. However, with the advent of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (along with President Donald Trump's refusal to facilitate a smooth transition of power), many Americans are wondering: Will Inauguration Day 2021 be canceled? While this high-profile political event isn't off the books completely, it's sure going to look a lot different this year.
Firstly, Inauguration Day can't really be canceled in the first place, as the date is literally written into the Constitution. Under the 20th Amendment, a presidential and vice presidential term ends at noon on Tuesday, setting a time and date for the legal transition of power.
During a Dec. 4 public address from Wilmington, Delaware, Biden was asked what his inauguration would look like in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. He responded pragmatically, stating his administration would follow the recommendations of public health experts. "First and foremost, my objective is to keep America safe, but still allow people to celebrate," he stated, highlighting how he expected many people to tune in digitally. "I can't do a super-sized version of [Trump's] announcement in the Rose Garden," he added, referring to Justice Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination ceremony at the White House, which was later cited as a likely COVID "superspreader" event.
On Dec. 16, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) announced COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for Biden's ceremony, which included significant reductions to in-person audiences. Traditionally, the JCCIC would distribute 200,000 tickets among Congress to give to their constituents. In 2021, however, the in-person audience will be reduced to a size that "resembles the State of the Union," and "invitations to [Congress] will be limited to themselves and one guest." According to the The Washington Post, the JCCIC is also taking a "layered approach" in maintaining health and safety measures, meaning attendees will most likely be expected to wear masks and socially distance per prevention guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, there's still a plan to allow Americans to celebrate. The Presidential Inaugural Committee is planning a "virtual parade," likely similar to the ones held during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions earlier this year. Details are still sparse, but according to the Committee's website, the virtual parade "will celebrate America’s heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions, and reflect on the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country as we begin a new American era."
Thousands of Americans will be missing from Biden's 2021 inauguration, and the president is expected to be one of them. On Jan. 8, Trump tweeted out that he planned to skip the inauguration ceremonies. "To all those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th," he wrote. While it's unconfirmed what he may do instead, reports indicate he may host an opposing 2024 campaign rally. The White House did not respond to Elite Daily's previous requests for comment on Trump's plans for Inauguration Day.
Biden's inauguration may also look a bit different due to recent events at Washington D.C.'s Capitol building, where on Wednesday, Jan. 6, Trump supporters broke through police lines to force their way inside. Photos and videos showed rioters storming through the building, forcing lawmakers to evacuate the House and Senate chambers and shelter in place. These riots have been characterized as a last-ditch effort by Trump supporters to prevent Biden's presidency from being certified by Congress. The Capitol break-in occurred after the president spoke at a rally near the Capitol building, where he delivered a speech claiming without evidence that the November 2020 election was stolen from him. The White House did not reply to Elite Daily's request for comment on the riot and Trump's role in inciting it.
As of Jan. 7, the D.C. National Guard has been deployed and will remain active for 30 days, per CNBC — well through the Inauguration Day ceremonies and celebrations.
Despite the pandemic and the civil unrest, one thing remains certain. Trump's term is ending sharply at noon on Jan. 20 — and Americans can (virtually) watch it happen.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include President Donald Trump's tweet about skipping Inauguration Day.
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