Politics: How Joe Biden's speech to Congress differs from past presidential addresses

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When President Joe Biden makes his first address to the joint session of Congress on Wednesday, it will look a lot different than speeches made by his predecessors.

The address, which technically is not called the State of the Union, will be the first time a U.S. president speaks to both houses of Congress since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as former President Donald Trump delivered his last State of the Union on Feb. 4, 2020.

COVID-19 precautions are the main reason why Biden's speech will come near his 100th day in office after receiving the invitation to do so from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on April 13. It will be the first time a president will do the annual address in the month of April and the latest in the year since former President Calvin Coolidge in December 1923.

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a close up of a chair: Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., sits in her seat in the House Chamber ahead of President Joe Biden speaking to a joint session of Congress Wednesday. © Andrew Harnik, AP Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., sits in her seat in the House Chamber ahead of President Joe Biden speaking to a joint session of Congress Wednesday.

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Social distancing guidelines mean only 200 people will be allowed in the House chambers instead of the 1,400 people allowed in past years. Five guests will be invited virtually, breaking the tradition of people sitting alongside the first lady in her viewing box. Six guests were invited by the Trumps in 2017 and 11 in 2020.

All people inside the chamber will be required to wear masks, and Biden will be masked as he makes the traditional walk down the center aisle to the rostrum but will take his mask off during his speech.

Key takeaways from Biden's 1st presidential address to Congress

  Key takeaways from Biden's 1st presidential address to Congress President Joe Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress was like none other in U.S. history. The speech looked different than in years past, with COVID-19 keeping the audience confined and putting a larger emphasis on the television audience at home -- likely Biden's biggest audience of the year outside of his inauguration.

History will be made once Biden begins his speech as he will have two women behind him —  Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. Pelosi became the first woman to sit behind the podium in 2007 during former President George W. Bush's address.

Dick Cheney, George W. Bush are posing for a picture: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (right) during former President George W. Bush's State of the Union address in 2017. © LARRY DOWNING, AFP/Getty Images Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (right) during former President George W. Bush's State of the Union address in 2017.

In wake of the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Biden’s address has been designated a National Special Security Event, meaning the Secret Service will oversee much of the planning. The Department of Defense, U.S. Capitol Police and other area law enforcement will also provide security to the event.

a group of people posing for the camera: Military personal and Capitol Hill Police department stage outside the US Capitol before U.S. President Joe Biden will address a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol. © Tasos Katopodis, Getty Images Military personal and Capitol Hill Police department stage outside the US Capitol before U.S. President Joe Biden will address a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol.

Since some members of Congress and the Supreme Court will not be present or seated in the House gallery for the address, there will be no "designated survivor" assigned for the event.

Transcript: Joe Biden delivers speech to joint session of Congress

  Transcript: Joe Biden delivers speech to joint session of Congress The president spoke to a limited crowd due to the pandemic. The setting was very different from a typical address, though. Due to the pandemic, tickets were limited and social distancing rules were in place.

Done in the event a major catastrophe kills the people in the House chambers, former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was assigned the role in 2020.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jord_mendoza.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How Joe Biden's speech to Congress differs from past presidential addresses

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