Many visitors plan to travel to the nation’s capital next week to join the festivities marking the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama. The Virginia Department of Health wants you to know how to ensure that if you plan to attend this historic event, your experience will be both healthy and enjoyable.
Early crowd estimates indicate that more than one million people could attend the Inaugural events. This likely will alter transportation conditions in the days leading up to and following the January 20 inauguration.
“If these estimates prove accurate, Virginians planning to attend any inaugural events should be prepared to stand outside in large crowds for several hours and may encounter some delays getting home afterwards,” says Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley, M.D., MBA.
Remley recommends visitors use common sense and plan ahead. Check the weather forecast before your visit. Review information at the department's Website, so you know how to dress appropriately for wintry weather. Wear warm, comfortable shoes because you will have to walk long distances and stand for long periods of time.
Participants and spectators should bring with them any necessary medications because there may be delays in getting to and from events. Take alcohol-based hand sanitizers or wipes to clean your hands and have snacks or cash on hand for food and water as attendees will not be allowed to bring backpacks or coolers into inauguration areas.
If your plans include driving, please be aware that traffic could be affected as far south as Fredericksburg, and possibly even to Richmond, and as far west as Winchester. Make sure you’re prepared to spend time in your vehicle with a full tank of gas and have food and water on hand in your car.
There will be about 50 first aid stations available on the National Mall and in the Capitol area if you require medical assistance while attending inauguration events, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Smithsonian Institution museum buildings on the National Mall will be open for people to use as warming stations. Additional federal buildings will be open along the parade route so attendees can warm up.
Among the Websites Virginians should use as they plan to attend the inauguration:
Inauguration Day 2009 provides information on inauguration festivities, spectator information and travel details. Sign up for emergency text alerts during January 16 to 23 under “SERVICES.”
Virginia Department of Health provides information on many health topics, including “covering your cough” and food safety.
Virginia State Police Inauguration 2009 is the main Virginia government Website for traffic and transit information including details on road and bridge closures into Washington during inauguration events.