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President Biden issued a statement on Thursday preemptively marking a milestone that once seemed unimaginable: 1 million COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
“Today, we mark a tragic milestone: 1 million American lives lost to COVID-19. One million empty chairs around the dinner table,” Biden said. “Each an irreplaceable loss. Each leaving behind a family, a community and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic. Jill and I pray for each of them.”
According to Johns Hopkins University, 998,997 Americans have died of complications from the coronavirus, including more than 900 in the past day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. death toll stands at 995,747.
The White House relies on data from both Johns Hopkins and the CDC for its internal tally.
“To those who are grieving and asking yourself how will you go on without him or what will you do without her, I understand,” Biden said. “I know the pain of that black hole in your heart. It is unrelenting. But I also know the ones you love are never truly gone. They will always be with you.”
Biden’s son Beau died in 2015 of complications from brain cancer. His first wife, Neilia, and daughter Naomi died in a car accident in 1972.
“As a nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow,” the president continued. “To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have with more testing, vaccines and treatments than ever before. It’s critical that Congress sustain these resources in the coming months.”
He added: “In remembrance, let us draw strength from each other as fellow Americans. For while we have been humbled, we never give up. We can and will do this together as the United States of America. May God bless the 1 million American lives lost and their loved ones left behind.”
The president also issued a proclamation ordering flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House in honor of those Americans who have died as a result of the two-year coronavirus pandemic.
Biden made similar remarks in a prerecorded video that was played during the opening of Thursday’s Global COVID-19 Summit, a virtual gathering of world leaders, nongovernmental organizations and private sector companies.
“Around the world, many more millions have died,” he said. “Millions of children have been orphaned, with thousands still dying every day. Now is the time for us to act — all of us, together. We all must do more. We must honor those we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent as many deaths as possible.”