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Biden inauguration will be ‘scaled down’ because of coronavirus, chief of staff says

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden waves as he arrives to receive a briefing on the economy with his economic advisers in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 16, 2020.

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration events are likely to look different from past years in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, his chief of staff said on Sunday.

Ron Klain said on ABC’s “This Week” that the Jan. 20 event is likely to feature “scaled down versions of the existing traditions” and may borrow from the techniques that were used to put on the virtual Democratic National Convention over the summer.

“I think it’s going to definitely have to be changed,” Klain said. “We’ve started some consultations with House and Senate leadership on that. Obviously this is not going to be the same kind of inauguration we’ve had in the past.”

The former vice president’s inauguration is scheduled to take place amid a surge in infections across the country. The U.S. reported nearly 200,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday and more than 177,000 new cases on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Well over 1,000 people are dying a day from Covid-19.

The change-up to the quadrennial tradition is an illustration of Biden’s dramatically different approach to containing the virus from that taken by President Donald Trump.

The Trump White House has largely shrugged off the contagious virus, including by holding indoor events in which officials did not wear masks. Trump, unlike Biden, frequently hosted large rallies during his campaign in which supporters gathered in close quarters for hours.

Researchers at Stanford said 30,000 cases of coronavirus and 700 deaths could be traced to 18 Trump rallies held between June and September.

While the president has taken a relatively lax approach to the disease, clusters of Covid-19 have emerged in his orbit. Trump himself tested positive in October and spent three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center being treated.

In all, at least 45 people connected to the White House, including Trump, first lady Melania Trump, their young son Barron Trump, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have tested positive for the virus. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, announced a positive test result on Friday.

Klain, a longtime Biden advisor who oversaw the Obama White House’s response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, said that the approach to the inauguration would mimic Biden and Vice President-elect Sen. Kamala Harris’s cautious mode of campaigning.

“They got a lot of grief for that; they got attacked for that relentlessly by President Trump for the way in which they campaigned — safely, to try to prevent the spread of the disease,” he added.

“They are going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said.

“We know people want to celebrate. There is something here to celebrate. We just want to try to find a way to do it as safely as possible,” he said.

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