AU advises students to avoid downtown around Inauguration Day

Fanta Aw warns of the risk of violence and COVID-19 spread

AU advises students to avoid downtown around Inauguration Day
Cherry blossoms in bloom on an empty campus.

Fanta Aw, American University’s vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, advised students in an email Monday to avoid downtown D.C. amid the risk of coronavirus spread and threats of violence.

The announcement comes following Wednesday’s Capitol insurrection. COVID-19 cases are also at record levels as President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration approaches. 

“Staying away from crowds, areas of high traffic, and locations where individuals are failing to distance or practice safety measures is crucial to protecting the health and safety of individuals and our community,” Aw wrote.

She encouraged students to limit using public transit, download the Rave Guardian safety app, register for D.C. alerts and sign up for D.C. government updates by texting INAUG2021 to 888-777.

“You had a group of folks that feel emboldened who were in many ways incited to violence," Aw said about the insurrection in an interview with The Eagle. "And to believe that it will just stop is something that I am not very optimistic about."

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released an update Monday asking Americans not to come to the District for the presidential inauguration, citing COVID-19 and safety concerns. On Wednesday, amid the deadly Capitol riot, Bowser extended a state of emergency until Jan. 21, meaning in part that she can alter businesses’ hours if she establishes a curfew. 

President Sylvia Burwell wrote in an email to the AU community Monday that the University still plans to ramp up on-campus operations as the spring semester progresses and return to in-person classes in the fall. 

Aw wrote that students will have limited access to campus prior to Jan. 25. Students will need to use their AU IDs to access campus buildings.

“Our campus is secure and likely not close to where demonstrations may occur,” Aw wrote. “However, we will continue to monitor events and adjust our security precautions as necessary.”

Kelsey Carolan contributed reporting to this article.

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