The inauguration of Joe Biden

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:42 a.m. ET, January 21, 2021
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10:42 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

How this year's inauguration adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic

From CNN’s Ethan Cohen, Liz Stark and Adam Levy

Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg/Getty Images

One of the biggest challenges facing organizers of this year’s inauguration was how to conduct the ceremony safely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced in mid-December that “vigorous health and safety protocols” will be implemented to prevent the spread of the virus. Traditional events will be “reimagined,” like the virtual inaugural parade, or canceled altogether, like the Capitol Hill luncheon. The inaugural committee also urged the public to refrain from traveling to Washington, DC for the ceremony and instead participate in inaugural activities from home

Here are some additional ways the inauguration changed due to the coronavirus pandemic:

Limited attendance: 

  • In-person attendance will be drastically cut back this year compared to previous inaugurations, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) announced in mid-December.
  • Normally, 200,000 tickets would be distributed for official ceremonies at the US Capitol, but this year attendance will be limited. For example, members of Congress will only receive a ticket for themselves and one guest, and the National Mall will be closed to the public. 

Health and safety protocols: 

  • Inaugural events that are taking place in person will incorporate public health measures to protect participants from the virus.
  • For example, the official swearing-in ceremony will include “vigorous health and safety protocols to protect public health, including face-coverings, social distancing, and more,” according to the inaugural committee’s website.

“Reimagined” or canceled events: 

  • A massive public art display, called the “Field of Flags,” has been set up on the National Mall, with approximately 191,500 U.S. flags and 56 pillars of light to represent Americans who can’t attend the inauguration in person.
  • The traditional inaugural parade will be virtual this year due to the pandemic, the PIC announced. The “reimagined parade” will feature televised performances from communities in all 56 states and territories, as well as celebrity and guest appearances.
  • In lieu of in-person celebrations, the Biden team will produce a 90-minute special program, titled “Celebrating America,” on the evening of his inauguration. Biden and Harris are expected to give remarks during the program, which will also highlight frontline workers, teachers and health care workers and feature musical performances. 
  • The Capitol Hill luncheon was canceled this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the JCCIC announced in late December, saying the decision was made in consultation with the PIC. In past inaugurations, the luncheon on Capitol Hill traditionally included congressional leaders and invited guests and often featured foods from the home states of the new president and vice president.

10:40 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Watch Biden enter the US Capitol ahead of his inauguration

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden just arrived at the US Capitol with his wife, Jill Biden.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff were also seem climbing the steps of the US Capitol alongside Biden.

Harris and Biden are scheduled to take their oaths of office shortly.

Watch the moment:

10:39 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

It's about to become a lot more quiet

Analysis from CNN's Harry Enten

Cover Images/AP
Cover Images/AP

President Trump departing to speakers blaring Frank Sinatra as President-elect Biden sat quietly in church is a pretty decent metaphor for the outgoing and incoming presidents. 

I’m not sure it has quite has sunk in yet in how loud Trump was and how much quieter it is likely to be in the next four years. 

Trump dominated the media like few before him. It helped propel him to the 2016 GOP nomination. And ultimately, it led to his downfall

Even until this late hour in Trump’s presidency, more people are searching for Trump than Biden on Google

Biden won’t be on Twitter every waking moment. (I guess Trump isn’t anymore, either.

It’s not that there won’t be action from Biden: In fact, he has a clear agenda. Rather, there will be set moments of action with a lot less talking in-between from Biden. 

10:38 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Harris will be escorted to ceremony by Capitol Police officer who led rioters away from Senate

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be escorted to inauguration ceremony by Eugene Goodman, the Capitol Police officer who became face of the resistance to rioters who stormed the Capitol two weeks ago today.

A Biden aide confirms to CNN that Goodman will escort Harris in his new role as acting deputy House sergeant at arms.

10:37 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Biden has arrived at the US Capitol for his inauguration


President-elect Joe Biden's motorcade has arrived at the US Capitol ahead of his inauguration.

Congressional leaders are expected to greet him upon his entrance to the Capitol building.

Biden is expected to take the oath of office outside the building at noon ET.

See President-Elect Biden arrive at Capitol ahead of his inauguration:

10:31 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Mike Pence arrives for inauguration ceremony

Vice President Mike Pence just arrived at the US Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

President Trump is not attending. He gave a farewell address earlier in the day before boarding Air Force One and heading to Florida.

See moment Pence arrives at Capitol for inauguration:

1:07 p.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Kamala Harris' uncle says her mother would be "immensely proud"

From CNN’s Vedika Sud

The uncle of Kamala Harris says his sister, Shyamala Gopalan, would have been "immensely proud" of her daughter, hours ahead of her inauguration as Vice President.

Speaking to CNN in New Delhi, Gopalan Balachandran said his sister had warned Kamala Harris:

"You’re not a white WASP, that you’ll face discrimination in the States. Be strong, be yourself and fight back."

Balachandran said the more he reflected on Kamala Harris’ achievements, the more he realized what a remarkable achievement it was for his sister to raise someone to be vice president and attorney general, despite all of the discrimination she faced as a single woman from India living in the US in the 60s.

Balachandran said he is in frequent family communication with Harris on family zoom calls but they don’t normally talk about her job. "She asks us how we’re doing," he said.

Hear more from his interview with CNN:

10:21 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Mitch McConnell arrives at the US Capitol

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrived with the former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, his wife, at the Capitol for Joe Biden's inauguration.

Chao resigned from her position in Trump's cabinet after the Capitol riot.

Other congressional members, including Sens. Chuck Schumer, Amy Klobuchar, Ted Cruz, were also seen.

See Mitch McConnell arrive at Capitol for inauguration:

10:30 a.m. ET, January 20, 2021

Bomb threat called into Supreme Court

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

A Supreme Court public information officer tells CNN that a bomb threat was called into the court, but the building has not been evacuated.

The Supreme Court building sits across the street from the US Capitol, where President-elect Joe Biden will take the oath of office at noon ET.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that a bomb threat was called into the court, but it was not evacuated.