In some ways, the inauguration will be much the same as previous ones – Mr Biden will take the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol and then make his way to the White House. But with the event happening just two weeks after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol – and coming amid a global pandemic – there will be lots of differences.
Here’s an in-depth look at what measures have been put into place to deal with heightened concerns about security and Covid-19. Questions are still being asked about how a mob was able to overrun the Capitol on 6 January, leaving five people dead, and the FBI has warned of further armed protests – so it’s no surprise that security measures have been greatly increased in recent days.
Inaugurations are designated a “National Special Security Event”, meaning the US Secret Service has overall command, but this time they will be supported by an increased mix of forces, including the DC Metropolitan Police Department and the National Guard National Guardsmen began arriving at the Capitol last week and eventually around 25,000 are expected to be involved in security efforts. There were 8,000 at Mr Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
The Pentagon has given its approval for some of those troops to be armed, with many stationed around the Capital being pictured with handguns or semi-automatic rifles. Incoming presidents are usually keen to boost the number of people at their inauguration ceremonies, but that’s not the case this year.
Even before the attack on the Capitol on 6 January, Mr Biden’s inaugural committee had asked supporters to stay at home because of fears that the traditional large gathering on the National Mall would turn into a coronavirus super-spreader event. Images of the stage on the west side of the Capitol being prepared show how different the event will look, with around 100 chairs spread over the space to allow the few guests there to keep socially distanced from one another.
Those guests will be wearing face masks and will also be required to have had a negative Covid-19 test shortly before the event.There will be no mass of supporters stretching down the National Mall for Mr Biden to look out on either, in stark contrast to the crowd of two million that gathered to see President Obama sworn in for his first term in 2009. The National Park Service announced last week that the entire space would be closed to the public because of security concerns. Instead, a display of 200,000 flags will fill some of the space.
The Capitol building itself looks more like a fortress than the home of America’s politicians at the moment, with a ring of fencing around its perimeter that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy described as “non-scalable”. Similar fencing has also been erected around the White House.