© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., May 11, 2022.REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo
Trevor Hennicourt and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden commemorated the 1 million U.S. deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, marking what he called “a tragic milestone” and urging Americans to survive the ongoing pandemic “Stay vigilant”.
In a statement, Biden acknowledged the impact of the death on families left behind and urged the country not to “become numb to this grief.”
The U.S. surpassed 1 million COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, crossing a once unimaginable milestone about two years after the first cases upended daily life. The loss is equivalent to about 1 in every 327 Americans, or more than the combined population of San Francisco or Seattle.
Most of those deaths, about 600,000, occurred after Biden took office in January 2021, at the height of the pandemic.
Biden marked the sad moment by ordering the flag to be flown at half-staff. On Thursday, the U.S. government also co-hosted a global COVID-19 summit with other countries to boost international efforts to combat the pandemic.
Biden’s more modest response to the 1 million deaths was in stark contrast to his commemoration of 500,000 deaths last year, about a month after he took over from former President Donald Trump, who was criticized by many voters for downplaying COVID-19. Influence and ineffective government response.
500 lit candles line the steps of the White House as a marching band plays “Amazing Grace” as Biden, his wife Jill, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband in February 2021 Doug Emhoff bowed his head in salute to the dead.
Politically, Biden now owns the pandemic. He campaigned against Trump promising to take it more seriously, taking office with a plan to vaccinate Americans and trying to show leadership on mask wearing and mitigation.
But under Republican leadership, he has encountered an unexpected backlash against vaccine and mask mandates, turning a public safety measure endorsed by disease experts into a political and legal battle in the United States.
The conservative-dominated Supreme Court struck down his federal vaccine or testing authorization for the company, and a Trump-appointed judge struck down his authorization for masks on public transportation.
ready to move on
The administration’s focus on vaccines as a way out of the pandemic has also left it scrambling when new virus variants that are resistant to them emerge, health experts say, while some critics have accused Biden’s team of Not enough was done early on to increase coronavirus testing nationwide.
Only 67 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated—one of the lowest rates among rich nations—and hundreds of people still die from the disease every day.
Now, even as cases rise again, mask-wearing is becoming rarer and mandates are increasingly taboo, some Democrats, including the administration, appear ready to move on.
Polls seen by the White House show some key voters believe the party’s response to COVID has been too harsh, something Biden aides have long cited as one of the president’s strengths.
While many Americans are eager to keep using masks and other safety measures, many are also tired of the two-year-old pandemic and more concerned about the direction of the economy, a White House official said, citing the public and Democrats. . opinion polls.
This has been reflected in Biden’s response.
In his most recent public remarks, the president referred more to COVID-19 as a cause of inflation than as a disease that Americans should try to avoid. The government has highlighted the relatively low number of COVID deaths compared to the early days of the health crisis.
Biden has urged Congress to provide billions of dollars in coronavirus aid to continue the fight against the virus as new variants of concern emerge.
“We must remain vigilant about this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible because we have more tests, vaccines and treatments than ever before,” Biden said on Thursday. Sustaining these resources over the course of the month is critical.”
U.S. lawmakers have reached a $10 billion deal, but some additional funding has been delayed due to various concerns.
As the virus continues to mutate and researchers are working on another booster, health experts say more investment in the pandemic is needed now to stem future outbreaks that could wreak further havoc.
The exact toll of the pandemic may never really be known. Some of those who died during the infection were never tested and did not appear in the data. Others who contracted COVID-19 and may have died from other causes such as cancer were still counted.