Coronavirus creates cloud of uncertainty over inauguration

Despite the pandemic, construction is underway in D.C. on the inaugural platform on the west front of the Capitol and the presidential viewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

But a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the inaugural ceremony and traditional inaugural week activities, including balls, parties and a parade.

“We really don’t know what it’s going to look like, the nature of the events, what sort of limitations will be in place,” said Troy Petenbrink, a DC-based travel journalist.

Destination DC, the organization that manages and markets the city as an events destination, also is left guessing about what Jan. 20 might bring.

“Clearly, COVID-19 will impact what traditionally happens during inauguration, and we don’t know what that means until we get closer to the date and what the pandemic looks like in January,” said Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC.

Regardless of the uncertainty, downtown hotels, hard-hit by the pandemic, are already posting high rates and minimum stay requirements near the date of the inauguration.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of 2-3 night minimums, non-refundable bookings,” said Petenbrink, who found more hotel values in the suburbs, some along the Metro line. “I was looking at some rates running around $200 to $300 a night — big difference from the $1,500 rates that it would cost you for a downtown hotel.”

Although the nation is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, travel experts predict that some people won’t pass up the opportunity to be in D.C. for the historic event.

“Typically, first inaugurations draw larger crowds than second inaugurations,” said Ferguson.

Destination DC promises visitors information, including hotel packages, deals and what restaurants and attractions will be open, on its website.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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