‘We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow’: Biden leads memorial for nation’s Covid-19 victims

‘We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow’: Biden leads memorial for nation’s Covid-19 victims

‘We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow’: Biden leads memorial for nation’s Covid-19 victims

‘We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow’: Biden leads memorial for nation’s Covid-19 victims

Following the deaths of more than 500,000 Americans from the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden has appealed to a nation grieving from unimaginable losses with a plea to resist apathy, and has asked the nation to join in mourning the lives lost within a year of the crisis.

“We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow,” he said from the White House.

He urged Americans to avoid “viewing each life as a statistic, or a blur, or ‘on the news.’”

“We must do so to honour the dead, but equally important, care for the living, those that are left behind,” he said.

The president stood with First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff to observe a moment of silence to recognise the nation’s death toll. A Marine band performed “Amazing Grace.”

In his address, the president said his “heart aches” for the nation as he promised – through remembrance, compassion and a shared commitment to combatting the public health crisis – “we will get through this.”

“As we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, we remember each person, and the life they lived,” the president said in brief remarks before the ceremony.

“They were people we knew, they were people we feel like we knew,” he said. “We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. …. The people we lost were extraordinary. They spanned generations – born in America, immigrated to America. But just like that, so many of them took their final breath alone in American”

He added: “As a nation, we cannot accept such a cruel fate.”

In his remarks, the president – whose own personal tragedies, trauma and loss has shaped his career and politics – spoke to the families and friends of victims, telling them he knows the feeling of a “black hole in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it – the survivor’s remorse, the anger, the questions of faith and your soul.”

He also mourned the loss of the rituals for those in mourning to cope or honour their loved ones because of restrictions in place during the pandemic.

“A day will come when the memory of one you lost will bring smile to your lips before a tear to your eye,” he said before leaning on the lectern and. “My prayer for you is that day will come sooner rather than later, and that’s when you’ll know you’re going to be OK. You’re going to be OK. For me the way through sorrow and grief is to find purpose.”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris share moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony for the lives lost to Covid-19

He urged Americans to continue to follow social distancing guidelines, wear masks, and “get vaccinated when it’s your turn”.

“We must end the politics of disinformation that’s divided families, community and the country,” he said. “It’s cost too many lives already. It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. it’s our fellow Americans, our neighbours, our friends, our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters … We have to fight this together, as one people.”

The nation eclipsed 500,000 lives lost from the Covid-19 pandemic nearly a year after the first confirmed death was discovered in the US.

Roughly one-fifth of those deaths occurred within the last five weeks, as the US emerged from two of the deadliest months of the pandemic in December and January.

“I think we can sort of understand that there has been excess mortality from this pandemic outside of Covid-19 specifically,” CDC director Rochelle Wolensky told reporters on Monday, suggesting the grim milestone of half a million dead Americans could be greater than previously reported.

“When history write this we will understand that the mortality related to this pandemic is far greater than the numbers we have been counting,” she said.

While deaths, infections and hospitalisations have declined within recent weeks, as vaccinations are underway, they remain high overall – more than 1,200 deaths were reported on Monday, along with 55,000 hospitalisations, underscoring the urgency for rapid and widespread inoculations and relief amid the ongoing economic fallout from the crisis.

More than 64 million Americans have received one or more doses of available vaccines, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 19 million Americans have received the required two shots of vaccines.

In remarks on Monday outlining the administration’s targeted expansion of a small business programme that has been a lifeline for employers, the president revived his call for the urgent passage of the American Rescue Plan, his $1.9 trillion legislative proposal for Covid-19 relief that is essential to his plan to combat the crisis, including vaccination efforts.

The legislation passed a critical House committee on Monday, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters last week that she anticipates the bills will be ready for a vote in her chamber this week.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week that the Senate will approve legislation and send it to the president for his signature ahead of a 14 March deadline when current unemployment benefits expire.

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