After Arlington National Cemetery nearly scuttled its annual Wreaths Across America event, organizers have now released a plan to proceed with the annual event — just with fewer people.
Instead of allowing crowds of people to place wreaths at thousands of graves on a single day, Arlington National Cemetery will allow certain groups to put up memorials over a week in December. The public will be allowed to visit the following week.
About 267,000 wreaths will be placed at gravesites throughout the military cemetery as part of the official Wreaths Across America event, a nationwide effort to honor fallen veterans and soldiers during the holidays.
Arlington National Cemetery will be closed to the public during the week of Dec. 13-19 so family members, soldiers and Wreaths Across America team members can adorn the graves.
On Dec. 14-19, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, family pass holders will be welcomed to lay wreaths.
During the week, U.S. Army Military District of Washington and the 3d U.S. Infantry, “The Old Guard,” soldiers will place wreaths on more graves.
On National Wreath Day, Dec. 19, Wreaths Across America team members will place more wreaths in a designated section. That event will be streamed online for anyone to watch.
When Arlington National Cemetery reopens on Dec. 20, visitors can place privately purchased tributes that comply with Arlington Cemetery’s policies.
"We developed this plan to balance our security posture and health and safety requirements with the desire to allow limited in-person participation," Arlington National Cemetery said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Arlington National Cemetery announced Wreaths Across America would be canceled there due to COVID-19. But one day later, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Arlington National Cemetery to safely host the event.
"We appreciate the families and visitors who take time to honor and remember those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground," McCarthy said on Facebook.
Coronavirus cases and deaths are climbing in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.