WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Tuesday that President Donald Trump remains committed to holding a Fourth of July celebration in the nation’s capital even as Democratic lawmakers from the region -- one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus -- warn that the area will not be ready to hold a major event.
White House spokesman Judd Deere reiterated that Trump wants to hold an Independence Day celebration after members of Congress wrote on Tuesday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to raise their concerns about the safety of such an event.
Trump in April said that because of the coronavirus, the event would likely have to be smaller than last year’s “Salute to America” event on the National Mall that drew tens of thousands.
“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,” Deere said. “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.”
In their letter, the D.C.-area members wrote that “such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans.” The letter was organized by Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va, and signed by 10 other congressional Democrats with constituencies in the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland.
Last year's July Fourth event featured tanks, a military flyover and a Trump speech at the Lincoln Memorial. The District of Columbia says it still hasn't been reimbursed by the federal government for security costs related to 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 lawmakers wrote.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Tuesday that the city won’t be issuing any permits for large gatherings in the immediate future. The capital is still under a stay-home order, with plans to shift to Phase One of its reopening this upcoming weekend.
Under recommendations by the mayor’s Reopen DC task force, large gatherings are prohibited during the first phase of reopening. In Phase Three, gatherings would cap at 250 people, with physical distancing.
Large gatherings, like the Independence Day event, would not occur until the District enters Phase Four, "when a vaccine or other cure has been widely administered, or the disease has effectively disappeared.”