An inauguration unlike any other amid a pandemic, unrest

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Final preparations are made ahead of the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON – Inauguration Day for President-elect Joe Biden will look unlike anything the nation has seen before as the scars of COVID-19 and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol turn the West Front into a virtual ghost town compared to years past.

Instead of a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, there will be a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Instead of balls, there will be Zoom parties. Instead of hundreds of thousands congregating on the Capitol grounds and on the National Mall, there will be thousands of National Guard members.

What to watch for on Inauguration Day:


Biden's oath of office is the only essential. The Constitution sets out a 35-word oath for the new president. Some presidents make it 39 by tacking on “so help me God.” There are conflicting stories about when the ad lib started. Some say George Washington added the words when he took the oath at his 1789 inaugural. Others say the first eyewitness account of a president using those words came at Chester Arthur’s inauguration in 1881. Regardless of who started the add-on, every president since 1933 has done it.

Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Biden; Justice Sonya Sotomayor will swear in Kamala Harris as vice president.

Among the celebrities who will bring star power to Biden’s inauguration are Lady Gaga, who will sing "The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Jennifer Lopez, who will give a musical performance.

Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman will read an original poem, “The Hill We Climb.”