A group of lawmakers have urged the Trump administration to cancel a Fourth of July celebration in the nation’s capital due to concerns that the social distancing challenges at a mass event like the scheduled “Salute to America” might fan the flames of the pandemic.
Expressing “serious concerns,” the 10 lawmakers, which include both Senators and House members, sent a letter (pdf) on Tuesday to the secretaries of the Defense and Interior, saying “we urge you to immediately suspend any plans of such an event.”
“Given the current COVID-19 crisis, we believe such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, spearheaded by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and that emerged from Wuhan last year to became a fast-spreading global pandemic, has so far killed over 99,000 Americans.
Last year, Trump celebrated the story of America as “the greatest political journey in human history” in the Fourth of July celebration in Washington, held on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. It included a flyover of warplanes and a performance of the Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team.
“If a similar gathering is planned this year, there is no doubt that it would exceed public gathering best practices and significantly increase the threat of community spread of COVID-19,” the lawmakers argued in the letter, adding that, “logistically such an event would be impossible to put on safely.”
Anticipating a similar event this year, Trump told reporters earlier this year that while the pandemic would pose challenges to holding a “Salute to America” celebration, these would not be insurmountable.
“We’ll have to do that in a very interesting way. Maybe we’ll even do it greater. Leave a little extra distance,” Trump said in April.
The White House indicated Trump remains committed to the event, though in a different format. Spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement on Tuesday that “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.”
“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,” Deere added.
The lawmakers, who called last year’s event “financially wasteful,” argued in their letter that “the administration should be focusing on helping American families, not on a vanity project for the president.”
The cost of “Salute to America” last year cost the government about $5 million and drew tens of thousands of spectators.
Washington has held an Independence Day celebration for decades, featuring a parade along Constitution Avenue, a concert on the Capitol lawn with music by the National Symphony Orchestra and fireworks beginning at dusk near the Washington Monument.