Last year, President Trump’s first annual “Salute to America” added a military display, large protests, and a speech from Trump himself to Washington D.C.’s typically busy Independence Day festivities. This year’s celebration, which is taking place during the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 126,000 Americans so far, will look only slightly different.
Here’s what we know about the festivities:
What’s on the schedule?
Trump’s Fourth of July celebrations begin on Friday, July 3, when he travels to South Dakota to give a speech at Mount Rushmore, where, for the first time in a decade, fireworks will be set off. The National Park Service canceled fireworks at the monument in 2010 due to concerns about starting a wildfire. Precautions have been taken to avoid starting a fire at the show, but some experts remain concerned.
On Saturday, Trump and the First Lady will host the 2020 “Salute to America” on the South Lawn and the Ellipse of the White House. The event will include music, fireworks, “military demonstrations, and flyovers to honor our Nation’s service members and veterans,” according to the White House.
The Defense Department is also planning to stage military flyovers in several American cities “that played roles in the American Revolution,” including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. The planes will then converge on D.C. Some 1,700 troops will participate in the event, the Defense Department said last week.
What about coronavirus?
While Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser has encouraged people to celebrate the holiday at home, she can’t stop the government from holding an event on federal land. But one of the biggest draws of D.C.’s Fourth of July celebrations, the National Independence Day Parade, has been canceled, which is sure to depress turnout. “COVID-19 infection levels will not be abated to the degree that it would be safe or prudent” to hold the event, its website says.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere says this year’s event “will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending.” Whatever those differences are, don’t expect see them in South Dakota. On Fox News Monday night, Governor Kristi Noem said people concerned about the coronavirus should not attend Trump’s speech at Mount Rushmore Thursday. While free face masks will be provided for those who do attend, wearing them is not mandatory, she said. “We will not be social distancing,” she added.
In late May, a group of lawmakers asked the Defense Department to cancel the celebration, saying it “would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans.”
How much will this cost?
A lot. Late last week, the Government Accountability Office released a report that showed last year’s “Salute to America” cost roughly double the government’s typical July 4th celebrations. “Estimated costs for the 2019 events on the National Mall increased to more than $13 million,” the report said. “This increase was attributable to the cost for DOD to transport several vehicles to the National Mall, the production and execution of the Salute to America event, and the additional security involved because the President attended the event.”