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A Solemn Milestone: Half a Million Americans Dead From COVID-19

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff stand outside the White House on Feb. 22, 2021 during a candle-light ceremony in honor of victims of COVID-19. | Photo courtesy of President Joe Biden via Facebook

Biden administration honors, mourns loss of life

By Terry Miller

The New York Time front headline on May 24, 2020 read “Deaths Near 100,000, An Incalculable Loss” with the entire page devoted to just the names and professions of some of those victims. Now, nine months later, that number has skyrocketed to over half a million deaths.

The overwhelming number of more than 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the United States was reached Monday. The grim and multitudinous milestone was marked by a candle-lighting ceremony and moment of silence at the White House where President Joe Biden delivered remarks. On Jan. 19, one day before Biden took office, he held an event to mark 400,000 Americans dying of the disease.

“A nation numbed by misery and loss is confronting a number that still has the power to shock: 500,000,” Julie Bosman wrote for The New York Times Sunday. “More Americans have perished from Covid-19 than on the battlefields of World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined.”

Globally, the U.S. has reported the highest number of cases and deaths in the pandemic. The number of Americans who have had the coronavirus (28.2 million) is nearly double that of second-highest India (11 million) and Brazil (10.1 million). Brazil has recorded the second-largest death toll (247,143) while Mexico has recorded the third-largest count (180,536).

“People decades from now are going to be talking about this as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country, to have these many people to have died from a respiratory-borne infection,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Sunday.

According to projections from University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an estimated 89,000 more will succumb to the virus by June 1. The IHME estimates that by late May, the virus will kill around 400–500 Americans per day — down from approximately 2,000 daily deaths now.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that hospital admission rates have fallen for more than 40 straight days — the numbers of new hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients have decreased by 62% from a peak of 18,006 admissions on Jan. 5 to 6,841 admissions on Feb. 16.

President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff gathered just after sunset at the White House for a candle-lighting ceremony. Biden delivered impassioned and deeply contemplative remarks after which a moment of silence was held for the victims of the pandemic.

“The people we lost were extraordinary. They spanned generations,” he said. “Just like that, they took their final breath alone, in America.” The president added, “I know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen table it brings it all back no matter how long ago it happened, as if it just happened that moment.”

The president also expressed optimism, telling Americans: “We will get through this, I promise you.”

During a White House press conference Monday afternoon, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked by a reporter if there is any plan for a permanent memorial to the lives lost due to COVID-19. While agreeing with the reporter that it might be a consideration, Psaki noted that there are no immediate plans in the works.

Psaki said Biden ordered all flags on federal property to be lowered to half-staff for the next five days in honor of those who lost the battle with COVID-19.

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