With the US approaching 500, 000 COVID – 19 deaths, plans are underway for President Joe Biden to mark the moment this week.
The president is planning to deliver remarks and hold a candle lighting ceremony at the White House around sundown as soon as Monday, if the threshold is crossed, a White House official said. First lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will also participate.
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Plans for the ceremony underscore the empathetic message Biden has sought to bring to the US coronavirus response since taking office last month – a departure from his predecessor. On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration was working on plans so the President could use his “own voice and platform to take a moment to remember the people whose lives have been lost, the families who are still suffering.”
One day before taking office, Biden, Harris and their spouses held a somber ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 400, 000 lives lost to COVID – 19 in the US at the time.
“To heal we must remember,” Biden said at the January event. Harris also spoke briefly at the memorial, noting that “for many months, we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.”
Their message stands in contrast to former President Donald Trump , who frequently defended his administration’s response to the pandemic but rarely expressed grief for the victims. In September, Trump told Axios on HBO that the US COVID – 19 death toll, “is what it is.”
“They are dying. That’s true. And you – it’s what it is, “Trump said at the time. “But that does not mean we are not doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it.”
While coronavirus cases are trending down and vaccinations are ticking up, the US is struggling to get a handle on the threat posed by new variants. Experts – both inside and outside the White House – are still far from certain that America is finally clawing its way out of the pandemic, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, told CNN Sunday that it is “possible” Americans will still need to wear masks in 2022 to protect against the coronavirus, even as the US may reach “a significant degree of normality” by the end of this year.
“This is a race to get the vaccine out there broadly enough and fast enough that it eliminates the chance of spread of even more strains, “said Dr. Bala Hota, an infectious disease specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”