Washington has no plans to change July 4 celebration as Delta variant cases rise

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) - The Biden administration is confident science supports its plans for a July 4 celebration in Washington, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday amid renewed worries about spread of the coronavirus.

President Joe Biden plans a 1,000 person Independence Day celebration on the White House lawn with essential workers and military families, and Washington's National Mall will be open to spectators to watch an evening fireworks display over the Washington Monument.

The fireworks traditionally draw thousands of local residents and visitors from nearby Virginia and Maryland. The National Mall was opened by former President Donald Trump last July 4, even as the nation's capital was hard-hit by the virus. The smaller-than-average crowds that did turn out were advised to wear masks and social distance.

Coronavirus cases have plummeted since then in Washington, where over 70% of adults have received at least one vaccine shot. The city lifted restrictions on mask-wearing for fully-vaccinated people in May.

Pedestrians walk along the National Mall near the Washington Monument in Washington, U.S., December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

But cases of COVID-19 and the more contagious Delta variant are rising in some parts of the United States, particularly where vaccination rates are low.

Parts of the country could see "very dense outbreaks" of the virus in the future, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, warned on Sunday.

(See a graphic on U.S. infection and vaccination rates)

"The majority of Delta cases are in people who are unvaccinated," Psaki said. "We are confident in our plans" for July 4, she said. "I don't anticipate at this point our plans changing."

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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