WASHINGTON, Feb 23 (APP): US President Joe Biden Monday mourned the more than 500,000 Americans lost to the coronavirus pandemic and called for unity in the battle against the deadly disease.
The milestone, based on a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University – an American research institution – came as public health officials train their sights on new, more contagious coronavirus strains that have been reported in almost every state and threaten to tax already stressed local health systems.
“As a nation we can’t accept such a cruel fate,” said the President before holding a moment of silence for those who have died.
“We have been fighting the pandemic 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.”
The president ordered national flag be flown at half-staff for the next five days.
Speaking from the White House, Biden reflected on the “truly heartbreaking milestone” of surpassing half a million US 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.
“We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or on the news. We must do so to honour 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.
Biden’s approach stood in contrast to that of his predecessor, former President Donald 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.
The approval of coronavirus vaccines represents a major positive milestone in the country’s battle against the coronavirus, he said.