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SO FAR FROM ZERO

Bi­den grieves as COVID deaths top 500,000

- BY CHRIS SOMMERFELD­T U.S. News · Politics · Accidents · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · United States of America · Joe Biden · White House · Vietnam · Donald Trump · Jill Biden · Kamala Harris · Reed · Donald · The Vietnam War · Walter Reed

‘You have 15 peo­ple, and the 15 within a cou­ple of days is go­ing to be down to close to zero’

DON­ALD TRUMP, FEB. 26, 2020

The sight of body bags for COVID vic­tims re­mains a scar on the na­tion as deaths from coro­n­avirus in the U.S. topped a half million on Mon­day. In­set, Pres­i­dent Bi­den and the First Lady hold vigil at White House to mark grim mile­stone.

Serv­ing as con­soler-in-chief to a na­tion in per­pet­ual sor­row, Pres­i­dent Bi­den urged Americans on Mon­day to not al­low them­selves to grow “numb” as the U.S. reached a dev­as­tat­ing and once unimag­in­able mile­stone — more than half a million res­i­dents killed by the coro­n­avirus.

Bi­den, whose own life has been marked by tragedy, struck a deeply per­sonal chord with those who have lost loved ones to the pan­demic as he held a can­dle-light­ing vigil at the White House to mark the U.S. COVID-19 death toll surg­ing above 500,000.

“While fight­ing this pan­demic for so long, we have to re­sist be­com­ing numb to the sor­row. We have to re­sist view­ing each life as a statis­tic or a blur,” said Bi­den, who lost his baby daugh­ter and first wife to a car crash in 1972 and his old­est son to brain can­cer in 2015.

“We must do so to honor the dead, but equally im­por­tant: To care for the liv­ing and those that are left be­hind. I know all too well. I know what it’s like . ... That black hole in your chest, you feel like you are be­ing sucked into it.”

The grim thresh­old passed Mon­day means COVID-19 has now killed more Americans than World War I, World War II and the Viet­nam War com­bined. The first coro­n­avirus death in the U.S. was recorded just over a year ago.

On Feb. 26, 2020, then-Pres­i­dent Trump down­played the sever­ity of a virus that had yet to spread in the U.S. while tak­ing credit for con­tain­ing it. “When you have 15 peo­ple, and the 15 within a cou­ple of days is go­ing to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” he said at a White House news con­fer­ence.

In a re­minder of how rapidly the bleak toll has amassed,

Bi­den re­called speak­ing at the Na­tional Mall on the eve of his in­au­gu­ra­tion last month to mark the COVID-19 tally reach­ing 400,000 Amer­i­can deaths.

“I said, ‘To heal, we must re­mem­ber.’ I know it’s hard. I prom­ise you I know it’s hard, but that’s how you heal,” said Bi­den, who also or­dered all flags on fed­eral prop­erty low­ered to half-staff Mon­day.

“For those of you who have lost loved ones, this is what I know: They are never truly gone. They will al­ways be a part of your heart. I know this as well and it seems un­be­liev­able, but I prom­ise you the day will come when the mem­ory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips be­fore a tear to your eye. It will come, I prom­ise you.”

Af­ter his re­marks in the White House Cross Hall, the pres­i­dent put on a black face mask and joined First Lady Jill Bi­den, Vice Pres­i­dent Ka­mala Har­ris and Sec­ond Gen­tle­man Doug Emhoff on the South Por­tico, where 500 can­dles had been as­sem­bled on the his­toric stair­cases to com­mem­o­rate the 500,000 lives lost.

Af­ter a mo­ment of si­lence, a mil­i­tary band played “Amaz­ing Grace,” as Bi­den, Har­ris and their re­spec­tive spouses stood 6 feet apart, their heads bowed.

Seek­ing to bal­ance tragedy with hope, Bi­den called on Americans in his re­marks to keep abid­ing by so­cial dis­tanc­ing and mask rec­om­men­da­tions as the U.S. beats back the virus through a vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign that pub­lic health ex­perts say could bring the pan­demic to an end by this fall.

“We ask you to join us, to re­mem­ber so we can heal, to find pur­pose in the work ahead, to show that there is light in the dark­ness,” he said. “This na­tion will smile again. 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 they left be­hind.”

By ac­knowl­edg­ing the agony of the pan­demic head-on, Bi­den is draw­ing a sharp con­trast to his pre­de­ces­sor, who reg­u­larly down­played the sever­ity of the virus, was re­luc­tant to de­velop a fed­eral strat­egy for fight­ing it and even mocked pub­lic health pre­cau­tions like face masks while still in of­fice.

Af­ter his own bout with COVID-19 in October, Trump re­turned to the White House from Wal­ter Reed Na­tional Mil­i­tary Med­i­cal Cen­ter and tore off his face mask while stand­ing on the very same por­tico where Bi­den held Mon­day’s vigil.

A few months be­fore that de­fi­ant re­turn from the hospi­tal, Trump tus­sled with a re­porter who asked how he could claim his ad­min­is­tra­tion had the pan­demic “un­der con­trol” when thou­sands of Americans were dy­ing ev­ery day.

“They are dy­ing. That’s true,” Trump said at the time. “It is what it is.”

“While fight­ing this pan­demic for so long, we have to re­sist be­com­ing numb to the sor­row. We have to re­sist view­ing each life as a statis­tic or a blur.” PRES­I­DENT BI­DEN

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 ??  ?? Pres­i­dent Bi­den and First Lady Jill Bi­den (at left, and also top) are joined by Vice Pres­i­dent Ka­mala Har­ris and her hus­band, Doug Emhoff, at White House vigil Mon­day.
Pres­i­dent Bi­den and First Lady Jill Bi­den (at left, and also top) are joined by Vice Pres­i­dent Ka­mala Har­ris and her hus­band, Doug Emhoff, at White House vigil Mon­day.

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