The president-elect said the event will mirror the all-virtual Democratic National Convention

By Virginia Chamlee
December 10, 2020 11:25 AM
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Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
| Credit: Matt Baron/Shutterstock

Similar to this year's unprecedented Republican and Democratic National Conventions — which were largely remote amid of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, especially the DNC — that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' inauguration in January will similarly be mostly virtual, according to organizers of the event.

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, co-chair of Biden's inauguration committee, told reporters this week the Jan. 20 event will be 75-80 percent virtual.

"We are going to discourage anything that could be a spreader. We are going to say to people: 'Please, follow our example,' " Clyburn, 80, said.

The Democratic lawmaker added that, if vaccines are widespread and the virus is under control by the summer, the administration might hold a large-scale celebration on the Fourth of July.

"What I'm hopeful is that we will have the swearing-in and, maybe if we can get this virus under control, have a big celebration of this country's liberty on July 4th," Clyburn said. "Have this president — at that time, President Joe Biden — celebrate his ascendance into the presidency during the July 4th celebration down at the Mall."

Clyburn continued: "Hopefully things will be under control then, vaccines will be widespread, people will have gotten beyond this pandemic and we can go back to some modicum of normalcy and have a big celebration of Joe Biden's presidency."

President-elect Biden has echoed Clyburn, telling reporters last week that his swearing-in would likely mirror how the 2020 DNC was centered around remote programming, rather than in-person events, and aired both on television and online.

“I think you’re going to see something that is closer to what the convention was like than a typical inauguration,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The inauguration events have typically included much pomp and circumstance, including days of parties and other gatherings as well as a parade, appearances by noted figures and celebrities and the president-elect's speech at the U.S. Capitol.

Biden, 78, said that the traditional inaugural parade would likely not take place and instead be replaced by "a lot of virtual activity in states all across America."

“First and foremost, my objective is to keep America safe but still allow people to celebrate,“ Biden said, per the Journal. ”People want to celebrate. People want to be able to say we’ve passed the baton. We’re moving on and democracy is functioning.”

According to the Journal, construction has commenced on the inauguration platform outside the Capitol but it's unclear how it might be used.

Health officials have warned that the winter months will be particularly difficult for the coronavirus. With cases spiking in the U.S. and hospitals in parts of the country nearing capacity, experts have advised against hosting large gatherings, particularly indoors, in an effort to contain the spread.

Despite the surge, the Trump White House has already moved forward with plans for several well-attended, indoor holiday parties. The State Department also reportedly had plans for a holiday party for nearly 1,000 people on Dec. 15.

Officials, however, insisted they were taking some precautions at these events even as top health experts said such parties were not recommended.

In a recent appearance on Good Morning America, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that indoor gatherings can be dangerous, even with preventative measures.

"We want everyone to understand that these holiday celebrations can be super-spreader events," he said then, adding that federal health guidelines against holding indoor events "apply to the White House, they apply to the American people, they apply to everyone."

Dozens of people in the White House orbit — including the president himself and, more recently, his attorney Rudy Giuliani— have tested positive for COVID-19 since the virus began to spread in the U.S.

Trump, 74, has not said whether or not he will attend any of Biden's inaugural events, as is customary for an outgoing president. He is said to be weighing hosting a competing event instead.