This week, as the U.S. COVID-19 death toll passed the tragic and startling number of 500,000, President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff marked the solemn occasion with a candlelight memorial.
“We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow,” President Biden warned during his address to the nation Monday evening prior to the candlelit service. In his roughly 10-minute remarks, the president spoke directly to the grief, sorrow and anger felt by the many families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
But the president also struck an encouraging note, stating, “To those who have lost loved ones, this is what I know—they are never truly gone. They’ll always be part of your heart. I know this as well. It may seem unbelievable, but I promise you, the day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye. “
In his proclamation remembering the fallen, Biden underscored the enormity of the losses. “As of this week during the dark winter of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 500,000 Americans have now died from the virus. That is more Americans who have died in a single year of this pandemic than in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined.”
President Biden has also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the federal government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset February 26, 2021.
This marks the second time Biden has led the nation in remembrance of the lives taken by COVID-19. A day before being sworn into office on January 19, President Biden and Vice President Harris honored the fallen at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool—at that time, the death toll was 400,000. The U.S. has lost more lives to the pandemic than any other nation.