Biden calls for national unity and healing, as coronavirus death toll climbs past 500,000

“For loved ones who are left behind: I know only too well. I know what it’s like not to be there when it happens. I know what it is like when you’re there and hold your hands, one look falls in their eyes and they slip away, ”said Biden, whose first wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident and lost to their older son Beau Brain tumor in 2015.

Biden also stressed the importance of remembering those who have died, especially at a time when it is discouraged to come together in person, and promised the public, “This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will experience joy again. “

“We often hear people described as ordinary Americans,” he said. There is nothing common about them. The people we lost were extraordinary. They span generations, were born in America and immigrated to America, but that’s how many of them have their last breath in America alone made. “

After his remarks, Biden was accompanied by First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff for a moment of silence to mourn their lost lives. A marine band played “Amazing Grace” and 500 candles in the background – one for every 1,000 deaths, the stairs that led to the balcony of the south portico were lit.

As the moment of silence ended, Biden, a devout Catholic with a penchant for quoting Scripture in speeches, made the sign of the cross before returning to the White House.

Earlier, at 5 p.m., the White House lowered its flag to honor the deceased after Biden ordered that all U.S. flags on federal properties should be flown by half-staff for five days. At the same time, Washington National Cathedral began ringing its bell 500 times.

Monday’s event, which takes place a little over a year after the first confirmed death from Covid-19 in the United States, showed how quickly the virus has spread in the country and how deadly it was. Just last month, on the eve of his inauguration, Biden held a similar vigil at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate 400,000 lives lost. Biden also noted in his remarks that the number of deaths from coronavirus exceeded that of those who died in the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Vietnam War combined.

The nation is now at another tipping point in dealing with the pandemic. As the number of new cases and deaths in the United States has fallen significantly from its January highs, new variants have raised significant concerns, as has dreary weather conditions in the south that disrupted vaccine distribution. These factors led to cautiously optimistic comments Biden made on Friday when touring a Pfizer manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“I think we will be closer to normal by the end of this year,” he said. “And God willing, this Christmas will be different from the last.”

“But I cannot make that commitment to you,” he continued. “There are other strains of the virus. We don’t know what could happen in terms of production rates. Things can change. But we do everything science has suggested, and people are committed to getting everything done that needs to be done. “

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top health advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, noted on Sunday how quickly the coronavirus had ravaged the US to hit half a million, calling it “awful” and “really awful”. ”

“It’s nothing we’ve been through in the 102 years since the 1918 pandemic influenza,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash. “People in decades will speak of it as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country.”

The real number of deaths from Covid-19 is according to health officials probably significantly higher.

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