America’s president remembers half a million Corona dead with a dignified memorial service. He gives the citizens of his country hope for better days.
The flag over the White House flies at half-mast in the cold winter air, and hundreds of candles on the south side of the building commemorate the countless Corona deaths in the United States. President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff bow to the victims. With heads bowed, they observe a moment of silence on the South Side of the White House, hands folded as if in prayer. Shortly after, a military band plays the song “Amazing Grace.”
“Today we mark a truly somber and heartbreaking milestone,” Biden said in a speech Monday evening (local time) immediately before the memorial service. The United States crossed the threshold of more than half a million Corona deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). “That’s more Americans who died in one year of the pandemic than in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined,” Biden said. “That’s more lives taken by the virus than in all the other countries in the world,” he said.
Flags at half-mast
The president, however, cautioned Americans not to dull in the face of the “unimaginable” death toll. “We must resist becoming numb to the suffering. We must resist seeing every life as a statistic,” Biden urged. “We must do this to honor the dead. It’s just as important to care about the living, those who have been left behind,” Biden said. Each Corona dead had family, friends and an “extraordinary life” that ended too soon, he said.
To commemorate the dead, Biden ordered flags across the country lowered to half-mast. This will be in effect for five days at public buildings, military bases and U.S. government diplomatic missions abroad. In the House of Representatives, members rose for a moment of silence.
The German ambassador to Washington, Emily Haber, said via Twitter that she joined Biden in lighting a candle. “500,000 is a hard number to imagine. It helps (and pains) me to imagine a single soul, someone I knew,” she wrote. “Rest in peace.”
The winter months of the pandemic have been devastating in the United States. Since early January alone, more than 150,000 people have died after being infected with the coronavirus. There are now 28.2 million confirmed infections in the country of about 330 million people.
Recently, however, there has been hope that the situation will improve soon. The number of new daily infections has fallen from more than 200,000 at the beginning of January to less than 70,000 now. The vaccination campaign is also making progress: 44 million people in the United States have received the first vaccination so far, and around 19.4 million people have already received both vaccine doses, according to CDC data.
Biden has been pushing hard on the vaccination campaign since taking office just over a month ago. The United States is now getting about 600 million doses of vaccine from manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer/Biontech by the end of July, which would be enough for all adults in the country. That means, according to some experts – if all goes well and, moreover, only a small percentage of Americans refuse to be vaccinated – the worst of the pandemic could be over by the fall.
“This country will laugh again, this country will have sunny days again. This country will experience joy again,” Biden expressed confidence. “We will get through this, I promise you.” Biden did not give a specific date for when he expects the country to return to some normalcy. But he expressed confidence that the situation should improve significantly in the second half of the year. Biden declared, “We never gave up. We are America. We can and we will get through this.”
However, many expert leaders warn that there could soon be a resurgence of new infections because of the spread of new variants. The government is particularly concerned about the spread of the variant discovered in the United Kingdom, which is considered significantly more contagious. It could become the predominant variant of the virus by the end of March, according to the CDC.
In absolute numbers, the United States is the country worst hit by the pandemic. Relative to population, however, the death toll is higher in some European countries. In the United States, about 152 people died per 100,000 population, according to Johns Hopkins data. In Belgium, the figure is 192, in the United Kingdom 182, and in Italy 158.