President Biden, anticipating the milestone of one million American deaths from Covid-19, said in a formal statement Thursday that the United States must remain committed to fighting a virus that has “changed the country forever.”
“We must remain vigilant about this pandemic and do what we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have done with more tests, vaccines and treatments than ever before,” he said. “It is critical that Congress maintains these resources in the coming months.”
The statement came hours before Mr Biden called his second Covid-19 summit aimed at bringing new urgency to the global coronavirus response. At the summit, both Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who represented the United States at the opening session with world leaders, used the gathering to mark the upcoming milestone.
Mr. Biden also issued a proclamation on Thursday ordering flags at the White House and all federal buildings to be flown at half staff by next Monday to mark the one million deaths.
As of Wednesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported more than 995,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States; A New York Times database put the number at more than 997,000. But with heads of state, leaders of philanthropists and drugmakers attending the virtual gathering, Mr. Biden was poised to mark the moment to come.
Well into the third year of the pandemic, Covid-19 has become the third leading cause of death among Americans, behind only heart disease and cancer. His tribute has cut deep into the lives of families across the United States. An estimated 250,000 children have lost parents or caregivers to Covid-19; of these, almost 200,000 have lost one or both parents.
The pandemic has also shaped the Biden presidency. Mr. Biden took office promising to defeat Covid-19, but hopes of achieving “herd immunity” through the combination of vaccination and exposure gave way to a hard realization that vaccines’ protective power against infection could be weakening and that new variants a re-infection reinforced common. Political divisions have thwarted mask and vaccine mandates.
Thursday’s meeting was an attempt by the President to put Covid-19 back on the radar screen, both in the United States and around the world. The White House has asked Congress for $22.5 billion in new coronavirus emergency aid, but the request has stalled on Capitol Hill, as has a compromise proposal for $10 billion in aid.