July 5 (UPI) — While Fourth of July celebrations were less traditional this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s capital still conducted its annual fireworks display Saturday and President Donald Trump gave an address at “2020 Salute to America,” which began at 6:40 p.m. EDT on the South Lawn of the White House.
The Washington, D.C., event was capped by a mile-long fireworks display along the National Mall.
The fireworks, along with a re-airing of past musical performances, was aired on PBS’ annual “A Capitol Fourth” special.
During his address, the president again touted Friday’s executive order to create a statuary garden and criticized the media and radical left while also calling for unity at a Fourth of July address on the White House south lawn Saturday.
Trump also touted the country’s coronavirus response.
The number of cases continues to climb, and many states this week set records for the number of new cases, a trend the president attributes to the number of tests being administered. He has previously said he asked to “slow testing down” to keep the number of reported cases low.
The president also expressed optimism about vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus, saying a treatment or vaccine may be available “long before the end of the year,” though the most optimistic projections from researchers and health officials say a vaccine may be available by the end of the year at the earliest.
Trump drew a parallel between American battles against Nazis, communists and terrorists overseas and current domestic unrest: “We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing” and said the media calls opponents racists “just for defending history.”
As in his Friday address at Mt. Rushmore, the president said he had just signed an executive order to create a statuary garden to honor an array of American heroes, including founding fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Jackie Robinson and Gen. George Patton.
Prior to the performance of the national anthem and president’s address, the U.S. Army Parachute Team — nicknamed the Golden Knights — performed an aerial maneuver over the White House lawn.
His address was followed by flyovers by U.S. military aircraft, which also traveled over Baltimore, Boston, New York City and Philadelphia.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said this year’s fireworks in D.C. would be “the largest in recent memory” despite otherwise scaled-down Fourth of July observances across the country.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has criticized the federal government’s event.
“We know this is a special event for the Department of Interior,” she said. “We’ve communicated to them that we do not think this is in keeping with the best [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and Department of Health guidance.”
The public gathering was scheduled as the United States reported its highest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases Thursday with 55,000. Overall, the United States has had more than 2.8 million confirmed cases and 129,000 deaths from the virus.
Bowser canceled the city’s annual Fourth of July parade in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.