Hours after the United States crossed the thresholdfrom President Biden celebrated the lives lost in the past year on Monday night. No other country has lost more lives to the year-long pandemic than the United States
“Today we mark a really gloomy, heartbreaking milestone,” he said in a short speech at the White House. “500,071 dead. There are more Americans who died in one year in this pandemic than during World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War.”
Memory, Biden said, is an important part of the healing process, both for individuals and for the nation. Shortly before the event, the president ordered the flags of the White House lowered to half the staff. Light adorned the steps from the White House residence to the south lawn, while the president, first lady Jill Biden, vice president Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff looked out over the south lawn in silence.
“That’s how you heal – you have to remember that,” Biden said. “And it’s also important to do it as a nation. Those who have lost loved ones, here’s what I know: They are never really gone. They will always be a part of your heart.”
The president, who lost his first wife and daughter in a car crash decades ago, and whose son Beau died after a battle with cancer in 2015, empathizes with those who have lost loved ones over the past year.
“I know what it’s like not to be there when it happens. I know what it’s like to be there, holding your hands and looking into their eyes as they slide away,” Biden said. “… That cinema where you met. Morning coffee you shared together.”
The president called on the country to move forward and take precautionary measures to prevent more deaths. It’s not about politics, he said – it’s about neighbors, friends, daughters and sons, husbands and wives.
“We have to fight this as a people. Like the United States … the only way to save more pain and more loss, the only way,” he said.
In total, the number of cases and deaths per day has decreased, and over 44 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose in a two-dose regimen.
Despite the astonishing toll taken by the virus, former Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb sees reasons for optimism in the coming months. On CBS News’ Face the Nation “on Sunday,“I think we will continue to see the infection rate drop in the spring and summer. Right now they are falling quite dramatically.” Although he does not believe the United States will ever receive “true” herd immunity, as large percentages of Americans have been infected and a growing number of people are being vaccinated, the disease is being transmitted “at a much slower rate.”
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