Americans won’t be able to request tickets or attend president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in person on Jan. 20, according to new guidance from the congressional committee overseeing the event.
Members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) announced the guidelines Wednesday, a major departure from years past, when inauguration ceremonies drew hundreds of thousands of people to Washington, D.C.
The committee plans to limit tickets to members of congress and one guest, while most of the U.S. will watch the ceremonies online or on TV. It will also provide commemorative ticket bundles and programs to lawmakers to distribute to constituents after the inauguration ceremonies.
“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,” said committee chair Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in a statement Wednesday.
“We are also working on enhanced opportunities to watch the ceremonies online, in addition to the traditional televised national broadcast,” he added.
Still, several members of Congress have made tickets available to constituents on their websites, though almost all noted that the logistics were subject to change depending on the pandemic. Typically, 200,000 tickets are offered to people across the country.
President-elect Biden’s inauguration planning committee already warned against travel on Tuesday, urging people to watch the ceremonies from home.
Nevertheless, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will still be sworn in on the Capitol steps next month, in some keeping with tradition.
“The election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris was historic and we know that many Americans would have wanted to attend the Inauguration in-person,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who also serves on the inauguration committee. “At the same time, safety must be our top priority,”
For the Washington, D.C. area, the inauguration has traditionally provided an economic boost as visitors fill local hotels and restaurants. The 2021 inauguration comes at a difficult time for the district. Visitor spending was down 80%, or $6.9 billion, from March 8 to October 10, compared to the same period last year, according to Tourism Economics. That translated to $313 million in lost tax revenue for the District of Columbia.
Still, D.C. officials have prioritized safety precautions throughout the pandemic, including a mandatory quarantine and testing protocol for people traveling to the district from an area with rising cases, which currently includes nearly every state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.