Biden orders flags at half-staff to mark 1M US COVID deaths

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset on May 16 to honor the 1 million American lives lost to COVID-19.

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“Today, we mark a tragic milestone: one million American lives lost to COVID-19,” the president said in a White House statement announcing the proclamation.

“One million empty chairs around the dinner table,” Biden continued. “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.”

The U.S. flag will be flown at half-staff at the White House and all public buildings and grounds, military posts, naval stations and naval vessels throughout the U.S. and its territories and possessions until sunset Monday, Biden said.

People walk through the flags of the 'In America: Remember' public art installation on the National Mall near the Washington Monument on September 26, 2021 in Washington, DC
People walk through the flags of the 'In America: Remember' public art installation on the National Mall near the Washington Monument on September 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo credit Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The president also directed flags to be flown at half-staff during that time at embassies, legations, consular offices and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

The coronavirus has killed more than 999,000 people in the U.S. and at least 6.2 million people globally since it emerged in late 2019, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Gov. Kathy Hochul released a statement Thursday, saying, “Today, our country marks an unthinkable milestone—one million lives lost due to COVID-19. These were mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends and neighbors, and I don't want any more New Yorkers to go through the pain of losing a loved one to this awful virus.”

The governor, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week, urged people to get vaccinated and boosted. She said it’s also “critical that Congress pass additional federal funding to ensure that we are prepared to respond to COVID-19 in the future.”

Biden convened a second virtual summit on the pandemic Thursday, saying addressing COVID-19 “must remain an international priority.”

“This summit is an opportunity to renew our efforts to keep our foot on the gas when it comes to getting this pandemic under control and preventing future health crises,” Biden said.

President Joe Biden speaks from the Oval Office of the White House on May 9, 2022
President Joe Biden speaks from the Oval Office of the White House on May 9, 2022. Photo credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The U.S. has shipped nearly 540 million vaccine doses to more than 110 countries and territories, according to the State Department — by far more than any other donor nation.

The president called on Congress to provide more funding for testing, vaccines and treatments, something lawmakers have been unwilling to deliver so far. The lack of funding — Biden has requested another $22.5 billion of what he calls critically needed money — is a reflection of faltering resolve at home that jeopardizes the global response to the pandemic.

Here’s Biden’s full statement:

Today, we mark a tragic milestone: one million American lives lost to COVID-19. One million empty chairs around the dinner table. 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.

To those who are grieving, and asking yourself how will you go on without him or what will you do without her, I understand. 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.

As a nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow. 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.

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 one million American lives lost and their loved ones left behind.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.