President Joe Biden led Americans in observing a moment of silence on Monday (February 22) to commemorate the grim milestone of 500,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19, urging Americans to set aside partisan differences and fight the pandemic together.
Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff marked a moment of silence at 6:15 p.m. (2315 GMT) at the White House after the president’s remarks.
“Today we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone – 500,071 dead. That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One, World War Two and the Vietnam War combined,” he said in an emotional address at the White House.
Biden also ordered that all flags on federal properties and military facilities be lowered to half-staff for the next five days,
About 19% of total global coronavirus deaths have occurred in the United States, an outsized figure given that the nation accounts for just 4% of the world’s population.
The country has the highest overall death figures, reflecting the lack of a unified, national response last year, when the administration of former President Donald Trump mostly left states to their own devices in tackling the greatest public health crisis in a century.
Biden, a Democrat, took office on Jan. 20 after defeating Trump, a Republican, in the 2020 presidential election, in part by arguing he would do a better job of addressing the pandemic.
(Production: Kia Johnson amd Julio Cesar-Chavez)