Rep. John Lewis will lie in state at the Capitol next week, with the public viewing extended over two days and moved outdoors to allow for social distancing and public health precautions due to COVID-19, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday.
The Georgia Democrat will lie in state at the top of the East Front steps of the U.S. Capitol on July 27 and 28 for the viewing.
Lewis, a civil rights icon who went on to a career of more than three decades in Congress as a Democrat representing Atlanta, died July 17. He was 80 years old and was in treatment for pancreatic cancer.
“The family requests that members of the public do not travel to Washington, D.C. from across the country to pay their respects at the U.S. Capitol given the COVD-19 pandemic,” the statement from Pelosi and McConnell reads.
An invitation-only arrival ceremony will be held Monday at 1:30 p.m.
Lewis’ family is encouraging virtual and online tributes to be posted using the hashtags #BelovedCommunity or #HumanDignity.
The near-universal respect and admiration Lewis had on Capitol Hill and across the country is one factor that has complicated plans to honor him.
The Capitol has been closed to nearly all visitors since March, and many staffers are still working from home in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The plan to honor Lewis outdoors is a departure from tradition, but aligned with public health guidance, which says outdoor gatherings are safer than those in enclosed spaces.
“Social distancing will also be strictly enforced,” according to the announcement, and per District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser’s orders, masks will be required to enter the line, which will begin at First and East Capitol streets Northeast. The public will file past on the East Plaza.
On July 27, public viewing will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern time and end at 10 p.m. It will run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on July 28.
“Given expected high temperatures and the potential for inclement weather, members of the public are encouraged to bring water and umbrellas,” the notice reads.
The lying in state will not be the only public celebration of Lewis’ life and legacy.
“The Lewis family will provide additional details regarding arrangements beyond the Capitol ceremony, including a procession through Washington, D.C., where members of the public will also be able to pay their respects in a socially-distant manner,” Pelosi and McConnell wrote.