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Biden and Harris to be sworn in at Capitol, but public urged to stay home

Biden on Inauguration plans amid pandemic
Biden on Inauguration plans amid pandemic 03:02

Washington — President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn into office at the U.S. Capitol next month, following a tradition dating back to Thomas Jefferson, who was the first president to be sworn in Washington in 1801. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the traditional inauguration festivities will be far smaller than those in recent history.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCIC) said in a statement on Wednesday that the event will be scaled down.

"Traditionally, the JCCIC would distribute 200,000 tickets for the official ceremonies at the Capitol and provide ticket bundles to Members of the 117th Congress to distribute to constituents. For the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies, invitations to Members of the 117th Congress will be limited to themselves and one guest," the statement said.

JCIC Chair Roy Blunt said that the inauguration event would resemble a State of the Union address, rather than the typical large ceremony with thousands of attendees.

"The JCCIC, in consultation with diversified public health and medical experts and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union," Blunt said. "We are also working on enhanced opportunities to watch the ceremonies online, in addition to the traditional televised national broadcast."

In a separate statement on Tuesday, the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), which oversees planning for the event, announced health protocols to promote safety on Inauguration Day, January 20. The committee said it was working with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies to plan an event that "honors and resembles sacred American traditions while keeping Americans safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19."

"On January 20, President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris will take their oaths of office at the U.S. Capitol during a historic ceremony that includes vigorous health and safety protocols," the statement said. "The ceremony's footprint will be extremely limited, and the parade that follows will be reimagined. The PIC is urging the public to refrain from any travel and participate in the inaugural activities from home."

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Workers construct the stage for the presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on December 1, 2020. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Dr. David Kessler, the committee's chief medical adviser, also said that people should avoid large gatherings when possible, and the committee is "asking Americans to participate in inaugural events from home to protect themselves, their families, friends, and communities."

Mr. Biden's warning against in-person attendance of his inauguration contrasts with President Trump, who for years has been preoccupied with crowd size at his events. In 2017, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer lied about the size of the crowd at Mr. Trump's inauguration.

More than 300,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, and nearly 17 million have contracted it. The first approved vaccine began rolling out this week, with the first vaccines going to health care workers.

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