The White House announced Wednesday that the Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C., will still take place despite calls from Democratic lawmakers to cancel the event in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“As President Trump has said, there will be an Independence Day celebration this year and it will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement, Fox News reported
“The American people have shown tremendous courage and spirit in the fight against this global pandemic just as our forefathers did in the fight to secure our independence, and both deserve celebration on America’s birthday this year.”
The White House announcement comes after members of Congress representing the National Capital Region sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt expressing their concerns about holding the event.
“Given the number of individuals that would try to attend such an event, logistically such an event would be impossible to put on safely,” the letter signed by a group led by Democratic Virginia Rep. Don Beyer read.
“Further, this event would come at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars while we are facing an unprecedented economic downturn due to the pandemic.”
The letter also cited limited parking and public transportation as potential issues for holding the event.
“Given the current COVID-19 crisis, we believe such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote.
Last year’s Fourth of July event, the Salute to America, featured tanks, flyovers from every branch of the military and a patriotic speech from Trump.
In April, Trump said he was still planning another Independence Day celebration this summer despite the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the country.
“We’re going to probably have 25 percent of what we had last year,” he told reporters.
“Ideally, it would be wonderful if we could actually have it as it was last year, and eventually we will have that.”
But the District of Columbia isn’t going to issue permits for large gatherings in the immediate future, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.
The federal city is still under a stay-at-home order and is planning to start Phase One of its reopening plan this coming weekend.
Public outdoor events like parades are supposed to be limited to 10 people in the first stage of reopening, 50 people in the second stage and 250 in third stage, according to NPR.
The crowds expected for the second “Salute to America” would not be allowed until Phase Four, “when a vaccine or other cure has been widely administered, or the disease has effectively disappeared.”
It was not immediately clear if Bowser will push back on the plans for the event.