Health, safety concerns top of mind for Inauguration Day planners

Inauguration Day is on the way, and amid a pandemic and security concerns, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will still be sworn into office in an outdoor ceremony — with some changes to accommodate today’s health and safety needs.

One thing is certain: This year’s inauguration will be like none other.

“Usually, in addition to the swearing in on the west front of the Capitol, there’s a big parade, and that evening there are any number of balls. And usually, the inaugural activities start over a number of days,” said Tony Allen, Ph.D. who leads the Biden-Harris Presidential Inauguration Committee. Allen is also the president of Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware.

“A lot of that is still true, in that we are starting our pre-inaugural activities already,” Allen said. “Including the MLK Day of Service on Monday to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and asking all Americans to really re-commit to volunteer service.”

Because of the pandemic, the Biden Inaugural website lists several volunteer activities that can be completed virtually or at a social distance on Monday.

Activities range from making cards for folks recovering from COVID-19, writing letters to seniors in nursing homes, knitting blankets for homeless people, and reading virtually to students, stocking virtual shopping carts for military families, or making contactless donations of food or warm coats to non-profits.

“You’ll see, Tuesday, an opportunity for the entire country to remember those who lost their lives to COVID,” Allen said. “The vice-president elect and the president-elect are going to light up the national mall, and we’re going to ask folks across the country to light up the National Mall and we’re going to ask folks across the country to light up the buildings in their cities and towns including their homes right at dusk.”

Inauguration Day will take place as usual — sort of — but not really.

“That’ll actually be in person,” Allen said.

Biden and Harris will be sworn in on the west front of the Capitol, but there won’t be tickets available to the public. Allen likens it to a joint session of Congress — one that’s also attended by other related dignitaries.

There also won’t be the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue as in years past.

“We will have a virtual parade,” Allen said. “We’re taking a road trip across America … This gives us an opportunity to really honor everyday Americans in a way that we haven’t been able to do in traditional inaugurals before.”

Those everyday Americans include everyday heroes like “front-line workers, first responders, medical professionals and practitioners,” Allen said.

“You’ll see an America that is diverse and inclusive, regardless of what you look like, where you come from or who you love,” Allen said.

To cap off the day, “a 90 minute segment on all national network TV. It’ll be highly produced, obviously there will be some celebrities … but it will be another opportunity for us to honor everyday Americans.”

But Allen says they’re encouraging folks to stay home and enjoy the festivities.

“I can’t stress enough that it will be a very well done, highly produced opportunity for families to watch those activities safely in their homes. That is very important. That’s been the case throughout President-Elect Biden’s campaign, and we want to make sure that we are being thoughtful about that as we are continuing to fight this pandemic,” Allen said.

Read more about inaugural events at the inauguration website.

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