Washington, DC, hotels for the Biden inauguration: What to know during Covid-19

(CNN) – President inaugurations can be challenging even in the best of circumstances. DC weather occurs in late January and is often numbingly cold. Having a large crowd demanding a stage isn’t always fun. And will people even come this year with an increase in Covid-19 cases, test requirements and possible quarantines?

Judging from hotel bookings, the answer is a resounding “yes”.

Some of DC’s signature hotels are already up to January 20th capacity, and many of those with vacancies are increasing their rates and enforcing minimum length of stay.

The rooms at the St. Regis and all four Ritz Carltons are sold out. Closest Hyatt with availability is outside of city limits.

And it’s not just luxury hotels that see interest peaks. Every Holiday Inn in DC sells out for inauguration day. The next available rooms are still in Alexandria, Old Virginia.

Weighing up costs

For avid Biden supporters, the financial implications were immediately apparent.

Shelby Durkin and her friends decided to book flights “within an hour of Wolf Blitzer predicting Biden to win”.

As three young college graduates, they were looking for affordable housing options, Durkin said. First, she explained, they found a promising Airbnb that was $ 63 a night.

“But we didn’t book right away, and a few hours later it was $ 1,400. Most of the hotels were either sold out or between $ 700 and $ 1,500, which is just not practical.”

Despite these costs, Durkin and her friends are determined to attend on Inauguration Day. “Seeing Kamala Harris sworn in as the first female vice president was something we couldn’t miss,” she said.

The historic nature of the ceremony motivated Tatjana Wacenske and her family alike.

“My daughter will see someone who looks like she’s taking such a monumental step not just for black women but for all women,” said Wacenske. “We decided to take part in this historic inauguration because we finally feel able to inhale.”

Initiation into a pandemic

While a president inauguration is always a busy time for DC hotels, the availability of the coronavirus pandemic is further limited. In order to protect customers, many hotels are not fully occupied, which makes the rooms even scarcer and therefore more expensive.

Jennifer Sorlie, director of marketing at the popular Riggs Hotel in downtown DC, said the hotel is waiting to see what the event will look like before setting prices for housewarming week. They are not currently accepting reservations for January 20th and rooms for dates nearby are non-refundable.

Despite the excitement about the event, many in DC are concerned about the influx of visitors to Biden’s inauguration. Mayor Muriel Bowser was cautioned that she had concerns about large groups of people traveling to the district in January, particularly now that 42 states are on DC’s high risk list for the ceremony, as she noted earlier.

Washington, DC reported 649 new Covid-19 cases for the past week on November 11, with a test positivity rate of 2.28%. The district has recorded more than 18,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

A historic day

Despite the increased costs and challenges of traveling during a pandemic, many Americans are still excitedly planning their visits.

For Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University, the influx of travelers is not surprising. “Participation is a boastful right. You can tell friends and family that you attended a real historic moment for the ages.”

Another of the President’s historians, Tim Naftali of New York University, came to a similar conclusion. “As President Trump’s stubborn rejection of the election results continues, many will view the ritual on January 20, 2021 as confirmation of the transfer of power. We have never needed that confirmation in this way before,” he told CNN.

That feeling clearly motivated those going to DC.

Eddy Sarosy told CNN that he and his friends had booked a hotel room a few days before the election and were planning a road trip from New York to the event. Sarosy said the expensive rooms were worth it because “this is a big moment in our country’s history and it just feels right to be part of it.”

Another motivating factor for Sarosy? “I’ll make sure the crowd is bigger than last time.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the Hay-Adams Hotel was sold out. The hotel is still available during the inauguration.

CNN’s Ali Main contributed to this report

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