- The National Park Service said it will close sweeping areas of the National Mall to the public when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in next Wednesday.
- The closures of the Mall started Friday at 11 a.m. and will extend through at least next Thursday.
- The decision comes more than a week after a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters marched across the park and stormed the U.S. Capitol.
- The closure was also revealed amid a massive surge in coronavirus cases, with January on track to become the nation's deadliest month for the pandemic.
The National Park Service on Friday said it will shut down "core areas" of the National Mall to the public when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in next Wednesday.
The closures of the Mall, where thousands of Americans traditionally gather to watch presidential inaugurations, started Friday at 11 a.m. and will extend through at least next Thursday, the National Park Service said in a press release.
The decision comes more than a week after a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters marched across the park and stormed the U.S. Capitol.
National Guard members have been deployed to the Capitol and other parts of the city as officials fear more violence and unrest could be in store ahead of Biden's inauguration.
The closures also come amid a massive surge in coronavirus cases, with January on track to become the nation's deadliest month for the pandemic, which has already killed more than 384,794 people in the U.S.
The congressional committee planning the inauguration had already announced that it would issue significantly fewer tickets to the event than in years past, in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Spectators at past inaugurations flooded the Mall, which includes the roughly two-mile strip of landscaped public space between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. The size of the crowd became a source of controversy at the start of Trump's administration, when then-press secretary Sean Spicer forcefully and falsely asserted to White House reporters that "this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period."
But the controversy ahead of Biden's inauguration stems from last week's siege of the Capitol, which temporarily forced a joint session of Congress into hiding and resulted in five deaths.
Jeff Reinbold, National Mall and Memorial Parks superintendent, said in the press release that government agencies "have developed a plan to ensure for the safety of our Nation's capital, city residents and monuments and memorials on the National Mall."
The National Park Service said it will allow a limited number of demonstrations among pre-screened participants holding permits in closed areas near the U.S. Navy Memorial and John Marshall Park.
The press release said the temporary closure "affects all National Park Service property, memorials and facilities in the areas roughly bounded by Constitution Avenue, NW to the north; Ohio Drive, SW to the south; the Potomac River to the west; and 3rd Street to the east."
"The area also generally includes President's Park, including Lafayette Park, the Ellipse and the White House complex, as well as East and West Potomac parks, and National Park Service lands along Pennsylvania Avenue," the press release said.