Biden mourns 500,000 American lives lost to coronavirus

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President Biden on Monday mourned the more than 500,000 Americans lost to the novel coronavirus and called for unity in the battle against the pandemic.

In personal remarks from the White House, Biden reflected on the “truly grim, heartbreaking milestone” of surpassing 500,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19. He described his own experiences of grief and losing loved ones as he paid tribute to those who have died over the past year.

“As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate,” Biden said. “While we have been fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or on the news. We must do so to honor the dead but, equally important, care for the living, for those left behind.”

Biden noted at the outset of his address that he carries a card every day that shows him the number of Americans who have died from COVID-19. He also referenced correspondence with Americans impacted by the virus, including a man he met on a trip to Michigan last week whose father-in-law was dying from COVID-19.

“The birthdays, the anniversaries, the holidays without them. And the everyday things — the small things, the tiny things — that you miss the most: that scent when you open the closet, that park that you go by that you used to stroll in. That movie theater where you met. That morning coffee that you shared together.”

The United States passed the grim threshold of 500,000 American deaths from the coronavirus earlier Monday, about a year after the first confirmed death due to COVID-19 in the country. Almost 2.5 million people have died worldwide from the virus.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden along with Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff participated in a candle lighting ceremony and moment of silence at the White House to mark the lives lost following the president’s speech.

The Marine Band played “Amazing Grace” as they stood in silence. Flags at the White House were also lowered to half-staff to mark those lost to the virus.

Biden’s approach stood in contrast to that of his predecessor, former President Trump, who often downplayed the threat of the virus in public comments and in practice as he held large campaign rallies and official events. When the death toll hit 100,000 last May, Trump recognized the “very sad milestone” in a tweet the following day.

Biden in his address urged Americans to keep up the practices of social distancing and mask wearing in order to prevent the further spread of the virus at a time when cases are declining but remain high across the country.

“Today I ask all Americans to remember, remember those we lost, those we left behind. But as we all remember, I also ask us to act, to remain vigilant, to stay socially distant, to mask up. Get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” Biden said. “We must end the politics and misinformation that has divided families, communities and the country and has cost too many lives already. It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus; it’s our fellow Americans.”

“We have to fight this together, as one people, as the United States of America. That is the only way we are going to beat this virus,” he continued. “Let this not be a story of how far we fell but of how far we climbed up.”

The approval of coronavirus vaccines represents a major positive milestone in the country’s battle against the coronavirus.

The Biden administration is now contending with the challenge of distributing vaccines to states and ensuring that Americans get vaccinated.

A bout of severe weather interrupted the distribution last week, but White House coronavirus response senior adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters Monday that the backlog of doses would be delivered by the middle of this week.

Coronavirus cases have declined from their peak in January but remain high across the country, and public health experts are urging Americans to continue to practice social distancing and wear masks to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“We continue to see trends head in the right direction but cases, hospital admissions and deaths remain at very high levels,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Monday. She called the 500,000 milestone “a truly tragic reminder of the enormity of this pandemic.”

Tags Donald Trump Doug Emhoff Jill Biden Joe Biden Rochelle Walensky

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