President Biden commemorated the 1 million American lives lost to COVID-19 on Thursday in remarks opening the second Global COVID Summit, a virtual gathering of world leaders, nongovernmental organizations and private sector companies hosted by the the White House.
“Today we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States: 1 million COVID deaths. One million empty chairs around the family dinner table. Each irreplaceable, irreplaceable losses,” Mr Biden said in recorded remarks from the White House. “Each leaving behind a family, a community, forever changed because of this pandemic. My heart goes out to all of those who are struggling.”
In recognition of the disease’s high toll, Mr. Biden also issued a proclamation ordering flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on May 16.
The president urged Congress to approve more funding for his administration’s COVID-19 efforts, saying the world is “at a new stage in fighting this pandemic, facing an evolving set of challenges.”
“I continue to call on Congress here at home to take the urgent action to provide emergency COVID-19 funding that is vital to protect Americans, to make sure that we maintain our supplies of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, including next-generation vaccines that are being developed,” Mr. Biden said.
The coronavirus ranks behind only heart disease and cancer as America’s leading causes of death over the past two years, claiming vastly more lives than other infectious diseases. By comparison, the flu season of 2017-18, one of the deadliest in recent decades, claimed an estimated 52,000 lives.
The pace of COVID-19 deaths has been slowing recently. The 7-day moving average is now around 300 reported per day — down from over 3,000 per day in February.
Federal health officials say vaccinations have significantly reduced the number of deaths — and could have saved even more lives if more Americans had gotten the shots. In recent months, the growing availability of effective COVID-19 treatments has also helped lessen the toll.
CDC survey data suggests vaccination rates are now similar among adults of all races, though booster shots are lagging among Hispanic and Black adults.
By Nancy Cordes, Alexander Cordes, Alexander Tin, Becky Van Dercook, Kristin Brown | CBS News