President Joe Biden addressed the nation as the United States scores 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, the highest death toll of any country in the world.
“As a nation, we cannot accept such a cruel fate. We must resist becoming numb to pain,” he said.
The President and Vice President, along with their spouses, then observed a moment of silence outside the White House during a candle-lighting ceremony.
More than 28.1 million Americans have been infected – another world record.
“Today I ask all Americans to remember. Remember those we lost and those we left behind,” President Biden said, calling on Americans to fight Covid together.
How did Biden mark the occasion?
Mr. Biden has ordered all flags on federal property to be lowered at half mast for the next five days.
At the White House, he opened his speech by noting that the American death toll from Covid was higher than the death toll from WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War combined.
“Today we mark a really dark and heartbreaking milestone – 500,071 dead,” he said.
“We often hear people described as ordinary Americans,” he continued. “There is nothing like it, there is nothing ordinary about them. The people we have lost were amazing. They span generations. Born in America, emigrated to America.”
“Many of them took their last breaths alone in America,” he continued.
He was inspired by his own experience of grief – his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash in 1972 and one of his sons died of brain cancer in 2015.
“For me, the way through heartbreak and heartbreak is to find purpose,” he said.
Mr Biden’s approach to the pandemic is different from that of his predecessor Donald Trump, who cast doubt on the impact of the deadly virus and was seen to have politicized the wearing of masks and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
On January 19, a day before Mr. Biden took office, he hosted an event to mark 400,000 Americans dying of the disease.
Monday’s event, marking the latest death toll, comes about a month later.
Elsewhere in Washington, the bells of the National Cathedral rang 500 times, once for every 1,000 Americans lost during the pandemic.
What’s going on in the United States?
The number of Americans who have had coronavirus is almost double that of the second highest in India (11 million) and Brazil (10.1 million). Brazil recorded the second highest death toll with 244,000 while Mexico is in third place with 178,000.
“People decades from now are going to speak of this as a terribly historic step in the history of this country, to have these many people die from respiratory infections,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the greatest country immunologist. CNN Sunday.
“It’s an astonishing number. A year ago, I could not have imagined that half a million Americans would lose their lives from this disease,” said Dr Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
“We have so much capacity, so much resource in this country … it was all preventable and shouldn’t have happened. And yet we are there,” he told BBC News on Monday. “And I think we need to think about all the ways our response went wrong.”
At least 90,000 more Americans are expected to be dead from the virus by June 1, according to a recent projection by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation (IHME).
The IHME estimates that by the end of May, the virus will kill around 500 Americans a day – up from around 2,000 daily deaths currently.
Hospital admission rates have fallen for 40 consecutive days as an estimated 1.6 million vaccines are given to Americans daily. But experts are still very concerned about the growing number of coronavirus variants in the country, which could trigger new deadly epidemics.
Despite improving numbers, the life expectancy of Americans has dropped by one year due to the coronavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week. The change has been most marked among racial minorities, who have been disproportionately affected by the deadly virus.
Black men suffered the biggest drop, with life expectancy falling by three years between January and June 2020.
And Hispanic men saw their life expectancies drop by 2.4 years during that time.