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Joe Biden remembers 500,000 COVID dead with candlelit ceremony at White House and lowers flags to half staff to start FIVE DAYS of mourning for grim milestone - as infection rates and deaths plummet

Joe Biden remembers the 500,000 COVID dead at the White House

  • The US hit the historic and tragic milestone of over 500,000 COVID-19 deaths on Monday 
  • At the White House Joe Biden ordered flags to half staff for five days of mourning and held a candlelit moment of silence, praying for the dead
  • 500 candles were lit on the South Portico of the White House where Biden led a moment's silence with First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff
  • He spoke just before it to mourn the lost, and say that the nation must also support those left behind 
  • 'You're going to be okay,' he said, speaking directly to those who have lost someone to COVID, referencing his own experience of loss
  • 'Today we mark a truly grim heart breaking milestone,' he said. 'We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There's no such thing. The people we lost were extraordinary.' 
  • Despite the grim news there were glimmers of hope with hospitalizations and infections both down, and vaccinations increasing

    No other county has had so many deaths from the virus: the U.S. accounts for 20 percent of the nearly 2.5 million coronavirus deaths globally.

    But the daily number of deaths and hospitalizations from the coronavirus are dropping fast, and on Monday fell to their lowest levels since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  

    There were 1,235 daily deaths recorded in the last 24 hours with figures now at their lowest since the middle of October. 

  • On Monday, the number of people currently in hospital with the virus fell to 55,403 marking 41 straight days of falling hospitalizations. 

    On the same day, the United States marked the grim mileston of 500,000 dead since the start of the pandemic with flags lowered to half staff at the White House, the Capitol and federal buildings around the country. 

    In Washington D.C., the bells of the National Cathedral tolled 500 times for every 1,000 Americans who have died from COVID.

    After the president spoke, he, Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff stepped outside to the South Portico of the White House for a remembrance ceremony. Surrounded by candles as the sun set, the four bowed their heads as the Marine Band played 'Amazing Grace.'

    Biden, in his short five minute speech in the White House Cross Hall, marked the half-million milestone with a combination of hope and grief.

    'You're going to be okay,' he said, speaking directly to those who have lost someone to COVID.

    He reminded Americans that the virus can affect anyone. 'It's not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus,' he said.

    'It's our fellow Americans. It's our neighbors, our friends, our mothers our fathers our sons our daughters, husbands, wives, we have to fight this together as one people as the United States of America,' he said.

    He addressed the heartbreak that so many families felt at not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones, noting the cruelty that comes with death in a pandemic.

    'So many of them took their final breath alone in America,' he said. 'As a nation, we can't accept such a cruel thing.'

    Memory: At sundown, Joe and Jill Biden and Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff prayed on the South Portico of the White House for the more than 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID

    Memory: At sundown, Joe and Jill Biden and Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff prayed on the South Portico of the White House for the more than 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID

    Lit in memory: The South Portico was illuminated by candles for the ceremony of remembrance, and federal flags were lowered to half staff for five days of mourning

    Lit in memory: The South Portico was illuminated by candles for the ceremony of remembrance, and federal flags were lowered to half staff for five days of mourning

    First and second couples: Joe and Jill Biden and Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff stood in memory of the dead during the moment's silence

    First and second couples: Joe and Jill Biden and Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff stood in memory of the dead during the moment's silence

    Salute: Joe Biden put his hand on his heart and the Marine saluted as the Marine Band played Amazing Grace

    Salute: Joe Biden put his hand on his heart and the Marine saluted as the Marine Band played Amazing Grace

    Candles of memory: The White House placed 500 candles on the South Portico, one for each of the thousand people who have died

    Candles of memory: The White House placed 500 candles on the South Portico, one for each of the thousand people who have died

    Grief: Joe Biden, speaking before the ceremony, said that he knew the burden of loss being felt across America

    Grief: Joe Biden, speaking before the ceremony, said that he knew the burden of loss being felt across America

    Support: Jill Biden put her hand through Joe Biden's arm as they held the moment's silence on the South Portico

    Support: Jill Biden put her hand through Joe Biden's arm as they held the moment's silence on the South Portico

    Prayer: Joe Biden made the sign of the cross as at the end of the moment's silence for the dead of the pandemic

    Prayer: Joe Biden made the sign of the cross as at the end of the moment's silence for the dead of the pandemic

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    Biden holds candlelight vigil for COVID victims at the White House

    'That's what has been so cruel,' he said. 'So many of the rituals that help us cope and help us honor those we loved had been available to us.'

    Biden said he carries a card in his pocket that contains his daily schedule and the number of infections and deaths from the COVID pandemic.

    'Those who have lost loved ones. This is what I know. They're never truly gone. They'll always be part of your heart,' he said.

    But even as he spoke of grief he encouraged the country to come together to heal from the pandemic.

    'Let this not be a story of how far we fell, but how far we climb back up,' he said.

    'Remember so we can heal. To find purpose in the work ahead. To show that there is light in the darkness. This nation will smile again,' he said.

    'This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we'll remember each person we've lost. The lives they lived. 

    'The loved ones that were there left behind. We will get through this. I promise you. My heart aches for you, those of you who are going to it right now. God bless you all. Particularly those who've lost someone,' he said.

    Illuminated: The candles were used to light up the stairs of the South Portico of the White House

    Illuminated: The candles were used to light up the stairs of the South Portico of the White House

    Arrival: Marines salute the First and Second couples as they walk out of the White House to the candlelit South Portico

    Arrival: Marines salute the First and Second couples as they walk out of the White House to the candlelit South Portico

    Place of memory: The White House organized the 500 candles to spread round the South Portico for the moment's silence

    Place of memory: The White House organized the 500 candles to spread round the South Portico for the moment's silence

    Prayer: The Bidens closed their eyes during the moment's silence, and the president made the sign of the cross when it ended

    Prayer: The Bidens closed their eyes during the moment's silence, and the president made the sign of the cross when it ended

    Grim total: The U.S. is now the worst-hit nation in the world from the COVID pandemic

    Grim total: The U.S. is now the worst-hit nation in the world from the COVID pandemic

    Grim total: Joe Biden spoke in the Cross Hall of the White House to pay tribute to the'extraordinary' people lost to COVID saying 'We all know someone. There is nothing ordinary about them. They spanned generations.'

    Grim total: Joe Biden spoke in the Cross Hall of the White House to pay tribute to the'extraordinary' people lost to COVID saying 'We all know someone. There is nothing ordinary about them. They spanned generations.'

    Personal knowledge: Joe Biden said he knew from his own experience the pain of grief being felt across America

    Personal knowledge: Joe Biden said he knew from his own experience the pain of grief being felt across America

    Speech: Joe Biden said that remembering those lost was part of recovering. 'This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we'll remember each person we've lost. The lives they lived,' he said.

    Speech: Joe Biden said that remembering those lost was part of recovering. 'This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we'll remember each person we've lost. The lives they lived,' he said.

    Mechanics of an address: Joe Biden spoke in the Cross Hall just before the sundown ceremony on the South Portico

    Mechanics of an address: Joe Biden spoke in the Cross Hall just before the sundown ceremony on the South Portico

    Biden last month observed America's COVID-19 deaths on the eve of his inauguration with a sundown ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial's Reflecting Pool. 

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi marked the death toll with a moment of silence on the House floor on Monday morning.

    Pelosi asked everyone in the Capitol 'to rise for a moment of silence in remembrance of more than 500,000 Americans who passed away from the COVID-19 virus.' 

    She also ordered the flags in the Capitol at half-staff and will join her fellow Congressional leaders - Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy - in a moment of silence on the Capitol stairs at sundown. 

    A little more than a year after the first COVID death in the country, the United States has hit the half-million mark. 

    No other country has had so many deaths from the virus. The U.S. accounts for 20 percent of the nearly 2.5 million coronavirus deaths globally, though the true numbers are thought to be significantly greater because many cases were overlooked early in the outbreak.

    That equals the number of Americans killed three wars - World War I, World War II and Vietnam - combined.

    It is also equal to the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and greater than that of Miami; Raleigh, North Carolina; or Omaha, Nebraska. 

    The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's, flu and pneumonia combined. 

    Flags will be lowered on federal property for five days

    Flags will be lowered on federal property for five days

    The White House lowered its flag to half staff at 5 p.m. ET on Monday as the United States topped 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic

    The White House lowered its flag to half staff at 5 p.m. ET on Monday as the United States topped 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic

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