New details about President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration have been released, revealing that the Jan. 20 event will feature a virtual parade and a “presidential escort” to the White House in an effort to prioritize health and safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.
After taking the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol, Biden will review military troops, a tradition that symbolizes the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander in chief. He will then be publicly escorted a portion of the way to the White House with representatives of each military branch, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Sunday.
This escort will provide “the American people and world with historic images of the President-elect proceeding to the White House without attracting large crowds and gatherings,” the committee said.
Traditionally, newly inaugurated presidents walk a portion of the route along Pennsylvania Avenue, allowing spectators a greater opportunity to participate in the historic moment. It’s not clear whether Biden’s escort will be entirely by car or whether he will walk some of the way. The committee has urged Americans this year to watch the events on TV rather than in person, to help prevent the virus from spreading.
Following this transition, viewers at home will be able to watch a virtual parade rather than the traditional one that accompanies the president in Washington.
Its performers 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,” the committee said.
The committee’s executive director, Maju Varghese, emphasized the virtual event’s ability to allow all Americans to participate, no matter where they are.
“This innovative programming will keep people safe and use new ways to bring in Americans across the country — from rural towns and urban cities to younger and older Americans to everybody and everywhere in between,” he said.
In recent years, typically hundreds of thousands of people gather to witness the event in person. It’s not yet clear how many revelers will turn out this year, despite ongoing health warnings and limited public viewings. Biden won more votes in the November election than any other presidential candidate.
The largest gathering on Washington’s National Mall, which spans 1.9 miles before the Capitol, was during the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, which drew an estimated 1.8 million people.