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BREAKING: Holiday Wreath Event Back on at Arlington National Cemetery

Update at 2:20 p.m. — Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy has directed Arlington National Cemetery to host the Wreaths Across America event this year, despite the worsening pandemic, per a tweet Tuesday afternoon. McCarthy said the event will be held safely, but it was not immediately clear how.

Update at 3:50 p.m. — President Trump now says that he reversed the decision to cancel the annual holiday wreath event this year.

Earlier: The annual holiday wreath-laying event at Arlington National Cemetery has been cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

“Due to the current COVID-19 situation across the nation and within the [National Capital Region], it is with great regret that ANC is cancelling Wreaths Across America,” the cemetery said in a tweet Monday night.

The average daily case rate hit a new all-time high in Arlington and across Virginia today. Nationwide, the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 reached a new peak today.

The wreath event attracts tens of thousand of volunteers, who lay wreaths at the cemetery’s hundreds of thousands of graves a week or two before Christmas. More crowds of volunteers then help to “retire” the wreaths after the holiday.

In a press release, below, the cemetery’s Executive Director said that officials “did not make this decision lightly.”

Due to the current COVID-19 situation across the nation and within the National Capital Region, it is with great regret that Arlington National Cemetery is canceling Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery and the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home Cemetery on December 19, 2020.

Following a thorough analysis of the annual Wreaths Across America Wreaths-In event this year, and in close collaboration with the Joint Task Force, National Capital Region, we determined that we could not implement sufficient controls to mitigate the risks associated with hosting an event of this size under current and forecasted infection and transmission rates, while still conducting a respectful and honorable public event.

“We did not make this decision lightly. Despite the controls developed to disperse potential crowds in time and space, and required personal safety protocols, we determined that hosting any event of this scale risked compromising our ability to accomplish our core mission of laying veterans and their eligible family members to rest,” stated Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director, Office of Army National Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery. “We reviewed various options to safely execute this long standing event and held numerous consultations with WAA leadership and local government and public health officials. We understand that although this is disappointing for so many, we could no longer envision a way to safely accommodate the large number of visitors we typically host during this event.”

ANC’s most sacred mission to lay our nation’s veterans and their family members to rest continues during this COVID-19 environment. In order to ensure that our primary mission takes place, and to protect our workforce and visitors, the cemetery is taking this proactive step to adhere to the guidance outlined by the CDC to prevent contracting or spreading respiratory illnesses like the flu or COVID-19.

“Our strong hope is to be able to resume hosting this great event next year in 2021,” said Charles “Ray” Alexander, Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery.  “While many of our families and visitors associate the wreath event with the holiday season, we thank all the thousands of volunteers who had planned to take this time to Honor, Remember, and Explore those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground. We invite everyone to virtually visit the cemetery through our multimedia platforms @ArlingtonNatl.”

Family pass holders and visitors are still welcome to visit the cemetery on their own schedules and place graveside tributes of privately purchased flowers or wreaths in accordance with our floral policy.

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