Thursday, May 12, marked a tragic milestone: the United States recorded one million lives lost to COVID-19. To honor those who have died in the pandemic, President Joe Biden ordered flags at the White House and all federal public buildings across the nation be flown at half-staff until May 16.
ABC News details Biden’s words to his country in a video message on Thursday. He called each death “irreplaceable losses” and painted a very real picture as he reminded us there are now “one million empty chairs at family tables.”
These heartfelt remarks were a prelude to his announcement of a second virtual summit focused on the worldwide response to the coronavirus and preventing similar health crises. The event is being hosted by the United States, Germany, Belize, Senegal, and Indonesia.
President Biden paid tribute to international COVID-19 deaths as he noted the U.S. was not the only country grieving from the unprecedented pandemic. He remarked that “millions of children have been orphaned” and called for action with “now is the time to act.” The President added that to honor those we have lost, “we all must do more to prevent as many deaths as possible.”
Thursday also saw Biden repeat his request that Congress pass more assistance to battle COVID-19. This refers to the $22.5 million he asked for in March upon warning that vaccine, treatment, and testing supplies were dwindling. A $10 billion assistance package is currently moving through Capitol Hill. Republicans have blocked it over plans to lift Title 42, a measure that restricts migration at the U.S. border. Democrats have attempted to link the relief package to assistance for Ukraine, but both efforts collapsed this week. President Biden stated that this emergency funding was “vital” in protecting Americans from further effects of COVID-19.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed out on Thursday that according to a study performed by Yale University, the Biden administration has saved over 2.2 million American lives and $900 billion in health care costs since the President took office. Yet, she also concurred that there is more work to be done.