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Inauguration: US flags at National Mall represent 200k non-attendees

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Thousands of US flags have been placed at the National Mall in honor of the nearly 200,000 Americans who cannot be present for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The display, which is called the ‘Field of Flags,’ is comprised of 191,500 US flags and 56 pillars of light. 

Images taken on Monday showed the flags carefully placed in rows near the US Capitol, months after a similar flag display honored the victims who died from coronavirus near the Washington Monument. 

The flags are representative of the Americans who cannot travel to Washington, DC, to attend the inauguration in person due to the pandemic, which has infected more than 23.9 million Americans and taken the lives of nearly 400,000. 

According to the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), the pillars of light represent the 50 states and US territories and will illuminate the National Mall during the National Mall Lighting on Monday at 6.30pm. 

The lighting will take about 46 seconds to commemorate Biden as America’s 46th president. 

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Thousands of US flags have been placed at the National Mall in honor of the nearly 200,000 Americans who were not able to be present for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

Thousands of US flags have been placed at the National Mall in honor of the nearly 200,000 Americans who were not able to be present for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris 

The display, which is called the 'Field of Flags,' is comprised of 191,500 US flags and 56 pillars of light

The display, which is called the ‘Field of Flags,’ is comprised of 191,500 US flags and 56 pillars of light

The flags are representative of the Americans who cannot travel to Washington, DC, to attend the inauguration in person due to the coronavirus pandemic

The flags are representative of the Americans who cannot travel to Washington, DC, to attend the inauguration in person due to the coronavirus pandemic

According to the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), the pillars of light represent the 50 states and US territories and will illuminate the National Mall during the National Mall Lighting on Monday at 6.30pm

According to the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), the pillars of light represent the 50 states and US territories and will illuminate the National Mall during the National Mall Lighting on Monday at 6.30pm

Individuals were able to donate to a group of nonprofit organizations selected by the committee in order to become a ‘symbolic sponsor’ of the flag display. 

On Tuesday, Biden and Harris will lead a tribute to the nearly 400,000 people who have died since the pandemic hit the nation early last year. 

According to Biden’s transition team, the ceremony will feature a lighting around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and will take place at 5.30pm on Tuesday. 

It will be the first-ever lighting around the Reflecting Pool to memorialize American lives lost, his team said. 

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‘The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris represents the beginning of a new national journey,’ Pili Tobar, the communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said. 

‘However, in the midst of a pandemic – when so many Americans are grieving the loss of family, friends, and neighbors – it is important that we honor those who have died, reflect on what has been one of the more challenging periods in the nation’s history, and renew our commitment to coming together to end the pandemic and rebuild our nation,’ Tobar added.   

The lighting will take about 46 seconds to commemorate Biden as America's 46th president

The lighting will take about 46 seconds to commemorate Biden as America’s 46th president

Images taken on Monday showed the flags carefully placed in rows near the US Capitol

 Images taken on Monday showed the flags carefully placed in rows near the US Capitol

Individuals were able to donate to a group of nonprofit organizations selected by the committee in order to become a 'symbolic sponsor' of the flag display

Individuals were able to donate to a group of nonprofit organizations selected by the committee in order to become a ‘symbolic sponsor’ of the flag display

A worker is seen installing several US flags ahead of the display at the National Mall on Monday

A worker is seen installing several US flags ahead of the display at the National Mall on Monday

A worker installs a US flag for display at the National Mall ahead of Inauguration Day in Washington, DC

A worker installs a US flag for display at the National Mall ahead of Inauguration Day in Washington, DC 

The National Mall prepares for the 59th inaugural ceremony for Biden and Harris, from the US Capitol in DC

The National Mall prepares for the 59th inaugural ceremony for Biden and Harris, from the US Capitol in DC 

A view of the National Mall, as a giant US flag is unfurled during a dress rehearsal for Biden's inauguration

A view of the National Mall, as a giant US flag is unfurled during a dress rehearsal for Biden’s inauguration 

A large American flag is are placed on the National Mall on Monday head of Inauguration Day

A large American flag is are placed on the National Mall on Monday head of Inauguration Day 

Flags are placed on the National Mall, looking towards the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Monday

Flags are placed on the National Mall, looking towards the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Monday 

Biden’s team has also asked that cities and towns also participate in the event by illuminating buildings and ringing church bells at the same time, ‘in a national moment of unity and remembrance’. 

As of Monday morning, more than 23.9 million people in the US have been infected with the virus and at least 397,600 people have died. 

With the traditions of inauguration upended by a combination of President Donald Trump’s refusal to meet Biden at the White House, massive security in the wake of the MAGA riots, and Biden’s insistence that the event be COVID safe, his team have carved out a new version which they hope will help take the focus off the outgoing president. 

Biden will make use of the lack of traditional greeting at the White House from the outgoing president on the morning of the inauguration to go to church before his swearing-in.

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On Thursday he will attend a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral which is expected to also be dedicated to those who have died of COVID. 

Trump is set to leave the White House for Mar-a-Lago on board Air Force One Wednesday morning after his plan for a military salute at Joint Base Andrews was nixed by the Pentagon.

Until now it had been traditional for the outgoing president and first lady to welcome the president-elect and his wife to the White House on the morning of the inauguration. 

The two leaders would then going down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol in the presidential limousine.

That was what happened in 2017, with the Trumps first going to a prayer service at St John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square opposite the White House – later to become notorious as the site of his Bible photo-op in June 2020 – before being welcomed to the White House by the former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.

But the Bidens will not be welcomed at the White House and instead, the president-elect will go to mass.

Until now it had been traditional for the outgoing president and first lady to welcome the president-elect and his wife to the White House on the morning of the inauguration. But the Bidens will not be welcomed at the White House and instead, the president-elect will go to mass

Until now it had been traditional for the outgoing president and first lady to welcome the president-elect and his wife to the White House on the morning of the inauguration. But the Bidens will not be welcomed at the White House and instead, the president-elect will go to mass

Security fencing runs down a street near the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. After last week's riots at the Capitol Building, the FBI has warned of additional threats in the nation's capital and in all 50 states

Security fencing runs down a street near the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. After last week’s riots at the Capitol Building, the FBI has warned of additional threats in the nation’s capital and in all 50 states

Workers set up the stage outside of the US Capitol ahead of the inauguration of Biden and Harris on Saturday in DC

Workers set up the stage outside of the US Capitol ahead of the inauguration of Biden and Harris on Saturday in DC

It is unclear which church he will attend. St. Patrick’s Catholic Church is the only Catholic church that will be inside the massive security zone being thrown around the White House, National Mall and Capitol.

After being sworn in, Biden will once again turn to remembering the dead, this time fallen troops, by driving to Arlington National Cemetery with former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Jimmy Carter, 96 and his wife Rosalynn, who have spent the pandemic largely at their home in Plains, GA, will not attend.

With the round of balls and concerts abandoned, Wednesday night will instead see a TV show hosted by Tom Hanks at 8.30pm on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, CNN and MSNBC.

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The day after inauguration has traditionally featured a prayer service at National Cathedral but this time it is likely to focus on praying for a nation traumatized by COVID and the Capitol riot.

Biden’s non-traditional inauguration will be the start of a first day in office in which he will take an ax to many of Trump’s signature policies. 

Among the promises Biden has made include mask mandates, striking down the travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries, and having the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.

While it’s an ambitious plan, Biden plans on signing a handful of executive orders on his first day in office, per a memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain.

One of the executive orders Biden will sign is a reversal of the travel ban, which first affected people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen when it was implemented in January 2017.

The order has been altered slightly since then, but has largely withstood legal challenges.

Another executive order Biden is planning on signing on his first day is an order that will have the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.

The agreement signed in 2016 is a global pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emission and enact other environmentally-conscious policies.

Trump had the United States withdraw from the agreement in November 2019, becoming the most significant nation to no longer be party to the pact, drawing the ire of the rest of the globe.

‘During the campaign, President-elect Biden pledged to take immediate action to start addressing these crises and build back better,’ Klain wrote in a memo obtained by CNN.

‘As president, he will keep those promises and sign dozens of executive orders, presidential memoranda, and directives to Cabinet agencies in fulfillment of the promises he made.’

Other executive orders Biden wants to sign right away include a halt of evictions during the pandemic, a pause on student loan payments during the pandemic, and a mandate requiring the wearing of face masks on federal properties and in federally-controlled jurisdictions, which includes interstate planes, trains and buses.

Biden also has listed a thorough immigration policy and a $1.9trillion coronavirus relief bill among his top priorities.

Biden previously said he would roll back the Migrant Protection Protocols on his first day, which turn away many Central American refugees at the Mexican border.

Whether or not he does so could become critical in the coming days, with reports of Honduran migrants working their way through Guatemala and slowly towards the US border emerging.

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