WASHINGTON – The United States surpassed on Monday half a million deaths from COVID-19, a somber record far in excess of any other country’s pandemic fatalities and which comes at a time when the Joe Biden administration is accelerating the vaccination campaign.
As of 5:00 pm US Eastern Time, according to the independent tally being kept by the Johns Hopkins University, 500,071 people had died in the US from COVID-19 and 28,174,133 confirmed coronavirus cases had been detected since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
To mark the milestone, Biden ordered on Monday flags at all US federal office buildings, including the White House and official facilities abroad such as embassies, to be flown at half-staff in mourning for the next five days.
Biden issued a presidential proclamation with that order and noted that the more than 500,000 people who have died in this country from COVID in the last year exceed the Americans who died in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War.
The president delivered a quiet, emotional and powerful televised speech on Monday evening in memory of those who have died from COVID.
“Today I ask all Americans to remember. Remember those we lost and remember those we left behind,” he said, calling for Americans to fight COVID together.
“As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate. We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow,” he said.
“We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There’s no such thing,” he said, adding “There’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary. They span generations. Born in America, emigrated to America.”
“So many of them took their final breath alone in America,” he continued.
During his address, Biden also urged Americans to “stay vigilant,” to continue to wear masks, socially distance and get to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again,” the president said. “And as we do, we’ll remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind. We will get through this I promise you.”
The president and Vice President Kamala Harris, and their spouses, then observed a moment of silence on the White House grounds during a candle-lighting ceremony with 500 candles each representing 1,000 COVID victims.
In addition, the Washington Cathedral rang its bells at 5 pm 500 times in tribute to the dead.
The US has been the country hardest-hit by COVID, both in terms of confirmed cases and deaths, having suffered more than twice as many fatalities as the No. 2 nation: Brazil.
According to the Johns Hopkins tally, Brazil has suffered 246,504 COVID deaths, followed by Mexico with 180,107, India with 156,385, the United Kingdom with 120,987 and Italy with 95,992.
Regarding confirmed cases, after the US comes India with 11,005,850, then Brazil with 10,168,174, the UK with 4,138,225; Russia with 4,130,447, France with 3,669,346 and Spain with 3,153,971.
Within the US, the states suffering the most COVID deaths have been California with 49,439, New York with 46,917, Texas with 42,291, Florida with 30,065 and Pennsylvania with 30,065.
Regarding caseloads, the top five states have been California with 3,533,639, Texas with 2,603,112, Florida with 1,872,923, New York with 1,597,969 and Illinois with 1,175,568.
Biden had forecast that during February the US would surpass 500,000 COVID deaths and that more than 600,000 Americans would ultimately die from the virus.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, on whose prediction models the White House often relies for pandemic forecasts, calculates that by June 1 some 615,000 people will have died from COVID-19 in the US.