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Donald Trump has not backed down from plans to hold events to mark the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C., despite pleas from local lawmakers and elected officials who say going ahead with them is an unnecessary risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic and will cost far too much for a region already struggling with budget shortfalls due to the pandemic.

The White House announced the "Salute to America" event on the White House's south lawn and on the Ellipse in a statement on June 19, weeks after officials had asked Trump not to hold the event this year. "In addition to music, military demonstrations, and flyovers to honor our Nation's service members and veterans, the President will deliver remarks that celebrate our independence and salute our amazing heritage. The evening will culminate with a spectacular fireworks display over the National Mall."

Trump hosted a "Salute to America" last year, ordering that military vehicles be displayed on the National Mall after he was denied the military parade he wanted and giving an address from the Lincoln Memorial.

The event lead to criticism that Trump was using the military as a political tool to boost his own political fortunes. He also faced criticism for how much money was spent on the event. The "Salute to America" cost $13 million, almost double the cost of previous July Fourth celebrations on the National Mall, according to a report released last month by the Government Accountability Office.

Members of Congress from Virginia and Maryland, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, the congressional delegate representing the District of Columbia, urged Trump not to hold the event this year, calling it an expensive "vanity project" that will "needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans."

Because the White House grounds and the National Mall are federal lands, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser doesn't have the authority to block Trump from holding events there.

But at a news conference on June 25, Bowser urged D.C. residents to "celebrate the Fourth of July at home or near their home in small gatherings."

"We have not eradicated the virus, we are still reporting new cases each day," Bowser said.

The District of Columbia, as well as the surrounding areas of Virginia and Maryland, have been able to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

However, experts fear that if revelers from states where the coronavirus is spiking travel to the region for the July Fourth events, they could bring on a new outbreak.

Trump personally has routinely ignored pleas from local health officials to take measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

He's refused to wear masks, which experts say are effective in preventing person-to-person transmission of the virus. And he held a campaign rally in Oklahoma, where attendees didn't practice social distancing or wear face coverings.

Public health officials in Tulsa, where the rally took place, had urged him not to come out of fear the mass gathering would worsen the coronavirus outbreak in the state.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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