Bells ring as honour for lives lost as US reaches 500,000 COVID deaths
NEW YORK (US) – The United States on Monday surpassed the milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths just over a year after it had its first known victim out of coronavirus in Santa Clara County, California.
In a proclamation, which honoured the dead, President Joe Biden gave orders for the US flag to be flown at half-staff on public buildings and grounds until sunset on Friday.
Biden said in the proclamation, “On this solemn occasion, we reflect on their loss and on their loved ones left behind. We, as a Nation, must remember them so we can begin to heal, to unite, and find purpose as one Nation to defeat this pandemic.”
Bells were rung at the National Cathedral in Washington to honour the lives of those who succumbed to death. It rang 500 times to symbolise the 500,000 deaths.
Biden said in a somber speech at the White House after the bells sounded, “As we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, remember each person and the life they lived.”
“The son who called his mom every night just to check in. The father, the daughter who lit up his world. The best friend who was always there. … The nurse who made her patients want to live.”
Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses made their presence felt, by wearing black clothing and black masks. They stood silently as the hymn “Amazing Grace” was played.
The country had confirmed more than 28 million COVID-19 cases and 500,264 lives lost as of Monday afternoon, according to a tally of public health data. That said, daily cases and hospitalisations have come down to the lowest level since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
About 19% of total coronavirus deaths across the globe have occurred in the United States, an appalling figure given that the nation accounts for just 4% of the world’s population.
Dr Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease adviser to President Joe Biden, said in an interview on Monday. “This is the worst thing that’s happened to this country with regard to the health of the nation in over 100 years,” He added that decades from now, people would be talking about “that horrible year of 2020, and maybe 2021.”
Fauci was part of former President Donald Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, for majority of 2020. This was a job that often put him at loggerheads with Trump.
Fauci said, political divisiveness majorly contributed to the US death toll.
The poor performance reflects the lack of a unified, national response last year.
Deaths recorded between December and February accounted for 46% of all US COVID-19 fatalities, even as vaccines were finally accessible and a substantial effort to vaccinate the American public kickstarted.
In his White House remarks, Biden called on Americans to be vigilant in the fight against the pandemic by continuing to wear masks, observe social distancing and receive vaccinations when it is their turn.