WASHINGTON — With sunset remarks and a national moment of silence, President Joe Biden on Monday confronted head-on the country’s once-unimaginable loss — half a million Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic — as he tried to strike a balance between mourning and hope.

Addressing the “grim, heartbreaking milestone” directly and publicly, Biden stepped to a lectern in the White House Cross Hall, unhooked his face mask and delivered an emotion-filled eulogy for 500,071 Americans he said he felt he knew.

“We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There’s no such thing,” he said Monday evening. “There’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary.”

“Just like that,” he added, “so many of them took their last breath alone.”

A president whose own life has been marked by family tragedy, Biden spoke in deeply personal terms, referencing his own losses as he tried to comfort the huge number of Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the pandemic.

“I know all too well. I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens,” said Biden, who has long addressed grief more powerfully than perhaps any other American public figure. “I know what it’s like when you are there, holding their hands, as they look in your eye and they slip away. That black hole in your chest, you feel like you’re being sucked into it.”

The president, who lost his first wife and baby daughter in a car collision and later an adult son to brain cancer, leavened the grief with a message of hope.

“This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we’ll remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind.”

He said, “We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or, on the news. We must do so to honor the dead. But, equally important, to care for the living.”

The president ordered flags on federal property lowered to half staff for five days and then led the moment of communal mourning for those lost to a virus that often prevents people from gathering to remember their loved ones. Monday’s bleak threshold of 500,000 deaths was playing out against contradictory crosscurrents: an encouraging drop in coronavirus cases and worries about the spread of more contagious variants.

Biden’s management of the pandemic will surely define at least the first year of his presidency, and his response has showcased the inherent tension between preparing the nation for dark weeks ahead while also offering optimism about pushing out vaccines that could, eventually, bring this American tragedy to a close.

After he spoke, the president along with first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff stood outside the White House for a moment of silence at sundown. Black bunting draped the doorway they walked through.

Five hundred brilliantly lit candles — each standing for 1,000 people lost — illuminated the stairways on either side of them as the Marine Band played a mournful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

The milestone comes just over a year after the first confirmed U.S. fatality from the coronavirus. The pandemic has since swept across the world and the U.S., stressing the nation’s health care system, rattling its economy and rewriting the rules of everyday society.

In one of his many symbolic breaks with his predecessor, Biden has not shied away from offering remembrances for the lives lost to the virus. His first stop after arriving in Washington on the eve of his inauguration was to attend a twilight ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to mourn the dead.

That somber moment on the eve of Biden’s inauguration — typically a celebratory time when America marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation.

The COVID-19 death total in the United States had just crossed 400,000 when Biden took the oath of office. An additional 100,000 have died in the past month.

Former President Donald Trump invariably looked to play down the total, initially claiming the virus would go away on its own and later locking into a prediction that America would suffer far fewer than 100,000 deaths. Once the total eclipsed that mark, Trump shifted gears again and said that scale of loss was actually a success story because it could have been much worse.

Outside of perfunctory tweets marking the milestones of 100,000 and 200,000 deaths, Trump oversaw no moment of national mourning, no memorial service. At the Republican National Convention, he made no mention of the suffering, leaving that to first lady Melania Trump.

And at campaign rallies across the nation, he erroneously predicted that the nation was “rounding the corner” on the virus while he disregarded safety measures such as masks and pushed governors to lift restrictions against public health advice. In audio tapes released last fall, it was revealed that Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in March that “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Biden, by contrast, has long drawn on his own personal tragedy as he comforts those who grieve. He has pledged to level with the American public on the severity of the crisis and has repeatedly warned that the nation was going through a “very dark winter,” one now challenged by the arrival of more contagious virus variants.

Biden also has deliberately set expectations low — particularly on vaccinations and when the nation can return to normal — knowing he could land a political win by exceeding them. He is on track to far exceed his initial promise to deliver 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days, with some public health experts now urging him to set a far more ambitious goal. The administration says it expects to have enough vaccine available for every American by the end of July.

Biden’s reference to next Christmas for a possible return to normalcy raised eyebrows across a pandemic-weary nation and seemed less optimistic than projections made by others in his own administration, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has suggested a summer comeback.

———

Lemire reported from New York.

(34) comments

shiftless88

Piddle, bosco and CD are here to demonstrate once again that though the Republicans claim to support "personal responsibility", in reality they do no such thing. It's the Pass The Buck party.

bosco

[sleeping][sleeping][sleeping][sleeping]

jth7100

I wouldn't have put my son-in-law in charge of the response, or said that it will disappear like a miracle, or belittled wearing masks, or left states to figure out their own plans (you know, make it a national program from the start) acknowledged that it was deadlier than I would tell the public, wouldn't have said it was a democratic hoax, or muzzled the scientists and make them listen while I speculated on ingesting disinfectants, or pushed hydroxychloroquine, or put a quack radiologist out to speak on information he knew nothing about. Do you feel Trump is responsible for any deaths at all during the outbreak?

Piedmontgardener

Sober, focused, intelligent hard working people are doing the right thing. Refreshing. Sure beats the alternative.

huskycats

Hey Bosco, don't forget not contacting Israel, our only true ally in the middle east. Yeah, guess who's really running the show - I think we all know.

bosco

Huskycats.....how long before Quid Pro Joe sends a pallet of cash to Iran so they can continue to sponsor terrorists and lob missles into Israel?

C.D.Reid

Speaking of who's really running the show, I think a good political cartoon would be one of Beijing Joe as a marionette with Barry controlling the strings on his right side and Pelosi controlling the ones on his left. [lol][lol][lol]

govtmule57

I remember hydroxychloroquine, and how the virus will "magically disappear" by Easter, or by summer. I remember converting preventive measures into partisan politics. I remember "I take no responsibility at all." If he takes no responsibility, I give him no credit for any subsequent progress.

Awteam2021

It was striking contrast to the approach of his predecessor. The times call for a person who can show empathy. Thank you, President Biden.

pdl603

The dunce in chief and vice dunce in chief have no plan.

newspostreader

But let me guess, you thought Donnie did? We have 500k deaths because he lacked to act when he needed to.

pdl603

Have you heard of Operation Warp Speed? Vaccines in record time and a plan for distribution, but no the current Dunce-in-Chief was elected by a bunch of dimwits, like yourself, on a promise that he had a plan. Well, statistically twenty percent of all COVID deaths happened on Wheezy’s watch in just 30 days. Vaccinations have not reached the levels needed, but if he doesn’t make it we have a press that will lower the bar for him.

bosco

Quid Pro Joe is already walking backwards in flip flops on his 100 Day Plan. He'll get a pass from the media. Remember what Obama said "Never underestimate Joe's ability to f**k things up" He's well on his way only 30 days in. Killing jobs, bending over for Iran, pissing off Canada, and supporting the Porcine Protection Act under the guise of Covid relief.

Beijing and Moscow must be very happy about their investments in the Big Guy and Biden Crime Family.

Brookhawk

"Operation Warp Speed" had nothing to do with the Pfizer vaccine. It was not part of the program. Counting what percentage died on whose watch is dumb because the program for failure was set a year ago and Trump set it. AND Trump has never once - not once - mourned anyone's loss. That's the guy you love.

C.D.Reid

Don't forget the thousands and thousands of illegal aliens he's going to allow to be released into the country. I heard he's going to have them all vaccinated before they're cut loose so no one can blame him for more COVID deaths. (Sarcasm alert.)

gabrielshorn2013

”"Operation Warp Speed" had nothing to do with the Pfizer vaccine. It was not part of the program.”

Not true Brookhawk. Although Pfizer turned down development funding, they were, nonetheless, still a part of “Operation Warp Speed”. Pfizer entered into purchase agreements under the program, and benefitted from the tremendous development risk reduction by that purchase agreement. Remember, mRNA vaccines were a novel and unproven vaccine technology, and there was no guarantee that they would be safe, effective, and pass FDA muster. The Feds took a gamble by agreeing to buy 200 million doses of their unproven technology, and it happened to pay off. The Feds originally contracted for 1 billion doses of CoViD-19 vaccine, and recently added 200 million additional doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine, for a total of 1.2 billion doses under contract. The population of the US is currently 331 million.

https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/07/22/us-government-engages-pfizer-produce-millions-doses-covid-19-vaccine.html

https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IN/IN11560

pdl603

Bookhawk, how do you know he never mourned any COVID death? Did you hear that here in the FNP, CNN, NYT, NBC or WaPo? No you haven’t so just another grandiose lie cooked up by The Party. You see your president, Lyin’ Joe Bidenz, can’t cut it.

NewMarketParent

@PDL

You mean Operation Dork Speed? I take no responsibility at all.

NewMarketParent

@gabrielshorn2013

I too like to take credit and successful people into my plans all the time. I like to consider myself a part of the Tampa Bay's Superbowl Championship team despite having nothing to do with the organization.

gabrielshorn2013

Don’t know where you’re going with your 11:53 comment NMP. If you opened the first link to the HHS website, you would have seen that it stated in the header: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 22, 2020. This was long before the mRNA vaccine was shown to be safe and effective through the mandatory Phase I, II, and III clinical trials. This would be similar to drafting an unknown QB, so your analogy is faulty. That QB would get paid regardless of their performance. The second link I provided (from the Congressional News Service dated December 22, 2020) stated who BARDA had funding agreements with, including Pfizer/BioNTech (200M doses), Moderna, Inc. (200M), AstraZeneca/Oxford Univ. (300M), Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.)(100 M), Novavax, Inc. (100M), Sanofi/GSK (100M), as well as a R&D agreement with Merck/AVI for viral vectors. That story said that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine received its EUA on Dec. 11, and Moderna on Dec. 18. Had you said that you drafted a relatively unknown quarterback (mRNA vaccines) back in July, and won the super bowl that season with that QB, that would be more appropriate. Purchasing 200M more doses is like extending that QBs contract another year.

NewMarketParent

@gabrielshorn2013

https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/nov/19/pfizer-moderna-covid-19-vaccines-and-operation-war/

Pfizer chose to risk its own money on vaccine research and not take federal funding in order to avoid bureaucracy and politics, Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said. He said its investment so far was at least $1.5 billion.

gabrielshorn2013

I am fully aware of that NMP. That is the cost that every pharmaceutical manufacturer must normally absorb in research, development, manufacturing, and sponsoring phase I, II, and III clinical trials. The $1.5 Billion figure is about right for any new drug under development. The manufacturer (sponsor) of a new drug must pay all of those costs upfront, and cannot charge for their drug product until after FDA approval. That includes all R&D costs, manufacturing costs, and clinical trial costs. If the FDA does not approve the new drug, none of that money is reimbursed, and the drug company (sponsor) takes a loss. Pfizer’s purchase agreement allowed Pfizer to manufacture and stockpile tens of millions of doses while the drug was still undergoing clinical trials. All of those doses would be paid for under the contract, even if the drug was a failure (it’s the first successful mRNA vaccine, so failure was very probable. Only 1-2% of drugs make it through the development and approval pipeline). That is what came under Operation Warp Speed, and is why Pfizer was able to supply the market so quickly.

NewMarketParent

@garbrielshorn2013

So now you are saying was Operation Warp Speed was a speedy approval process?

gabrielshorn2013

It was absolutely a speedy and unprecedented approval process NMP! Never has a drug product gone through development and phase I, II, and III clinical trials so fast. The usual timeline is at least 10 years, not under 10 months. Here is an FDA presentation, a GAO report, and a few graphics explaining how the drug approval process works.

https://www.fda.gov/media/97229/download

https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-20-583SP

https://images.app.goo.gl/AvvKFq5iUcgkXzCR9

NewMarketParent

@gabrielshorn2013

There was nothing significant about a speedy approval process when there is a deadly virus decimating a population. There was nothing Herculean about that. I feel really sad for anyone who hangs their hat on that.

Awteam2021

Not saying he didn’t, but I can’t recall Trump ever showing any public empathy for the millions who have suffered hardships, and even worst, the loss of life during this pandemic. Can you point to a time he did? Also, “Operation Warp Speed” didn’t come fast enough to get him re-elected. Kind of a footnote in history - like “Early was late.”

gabrielshorn2013

Wow. You are plainly demonstrating your ignorance on this subject, NMP. I don’t know what you do for a living, except that you have a math degree. You clearly have never worked in the FDA-regulated pharmaceutical or healthcare fields, have no idea what the clinical trial and regulatory approval process entails, or how to deliver safe and effective medicines to the public. One does not simply whip something up in a test tube in the lab, and then stick it in someone’s arm. There is a process to demonstrate safety and efficacy that must be followed so that the medicines themselves do not kill or maim people. I get it; you hate Trump and all he touched. I’m not a fan either, but do you really believe that Donald J. Trump came up with “Operation Warp Speed” to get these medicines out to the public as quickly as humanly possible? No, he did not. It was the dedicated men and women at FDA, CDC, NIH, and DoD, academia, and industry that put this all together. Nothing Herculean? You denigrate this fantastic achievement in human health that will save lives, with a viral infection that had never been seen in humans before? It took Jonas Salk 2.5 years to develop the polio vaccine (a disease with mortality rate for acute paralytic polio ranging from 5–15%, and permanent weakness in 2/3 of those it infected), and that was in 1955, long before FDA’s current safety standards. Other life-saving vaccines have similar timelines. Come on, get real.

NewMarketParent

@gabrielshorn2013

I actually have a degrees in Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering. Doesn't matter that I don't work in pharmaceuticals because I don't spend my time trying and energy on distinctions that don't make a difference.

Every time you want to highlight and cape for a cause it is always to split hairs on distinctions that make no difference and always on the side of white supremacy. I get that is your jam to try to split hairs, but you only ever really seem to do it on one side of the fence. I never see you counter PDL, Reek, or CDeez, but you are always on their side to support the smallest sliver of their argument that might have a sliver of daylight to it. You don't ever attack the majority nor the bad faith. You only come and cape for the sliver of it that makes it plausible.

NewMarketParent

@gabrielshorn2013

Also...

That ideas for those vaccines were built over years. While they may have novel for this particular treatment, ultimately it is the data that proved the case and made the risk model for attempting this acceptable. The previous administration did nothing significant to impact that, but I see you wanting to fawn all over yourself to pat them on the back. Cheer for 45 all you want. You may see yourself as neutral but I have never observed that of you. You are always caping for the villains.

gabrielshorn2013

OMG, NMP, what? Where in the world are you getting me “caping for white supremacy” on this or any other thread? What does vaccine development (something that I am quite familiar with) have to do with white supremacy? What hairs have I split in this thread? The claim by Brookhawk was that Pfizer was not a part of the “Operation Warp Speed” program, and using publicly available HHS and CRS information, I refuted that statement. Pfizer, and a couple of others, chose to fund their own development, but nonetheless have been a part of OWS since the beginning. It is a consortium involving government, industry, and academia, and Pfizer has benefitted from its collaboration. You then chose to interject yourself, and began splitting hairs yourself on differences that don’t matter, or clearly do not understand. I tried to refocus you with actual references to clarify the actual vaccine development and approval process for your edification. Yes, the mRNA vaccines were an idea from Katalin Kariko back in the ‘90s, but they had never been successful. It wasn’t until around 2009 and Ebola where the kinks were beginning to get worked out, but it still had not been put into a successful vaccine until now.

Must I also refute someone in every story in this paper if I disagree with them? No. I have occasionally agreed with bosco or CD on some of their contributions to some threads, and have agreed with many others too. I will also disagree with someone when I have knowledge of that subject. If you choose to get into it with those guys, well, have at it. BTW, never “cheered for 45”. Didn’t vote for him in ’16, or in ’20, and many of the long timers here know that. I sat out ’16, and voted for Jo Jorgensen in ’20. They also know that a HS friend of mine went to work for him after grad school, but quit in under a year, saying “what an @$$#ole”. Growing up just outside of NYC, I’ve known about DJT since the ‘80s, long before folks down here ever did. I’m not impressed now, and never was.

Awteam2021

Defending Trump is a futile effort. Trump is a despicable human being. He has a long history of taking credit from other’s . His niece (family) claims he hired someone to take the SATs to get him into Pennsylvania U, ‘Ivy league’. He has a long history of trying to escape wrong doings. Always callson his best excuse since Elementary school “Mommy, they only blame me because all the the other kids hate me.” From violating discrimination laws in rental laws , philanthropy, married three times, cheated own all his wives, fraudulent nonprofit organizations, college institutional fraud, violation of use of donations to hide in the affair, and now instigating insurrections on democracy. Man, he can’t get a loan from a US bank.. Now his taxes are exposed. Are you still buying he’s under audit? Do you think that will go well in court? At some point you need to question why you defend him. Why? The border?

gabrielshorn2013

Who are you addressing aw?

C.D.Reid

Ya know, newspostreader, when I read BS like your "We have 500k deaths because [Trump} lacked to act when he needed to," I wonder if a case of TDS as severe as yours obviously is could ever been treated. So tell us, just how many of those 500k deaths are a result of Trump not acting as quickly as you think he should have? Just what would you have done differently if you had been in his position? And do you think Biden deserves all the credit for the vaccines now being administered?

Awteam2021

Trump is solely responsible for his bad choices and actions. Or should I say “lack of actions?” -Um 😳, maybe he shouldn’t have down played the immediate seriousness of the virus in its earliest days. ( "This is deadly stuff," Trump told Woodward on February 7 but continued to down play the severity of the virus to the public.) Maybe promoted ‘ALL’ wearing masks and practicing social distancing. (Trump chose to mock those that wore masks and practice social distancing protocols recommended by the CDC.) Maybe he should have condemned those that didn’t practice social distancing.(instead he held large rallies.) Trump should have advocated everyone taking responsibility to prevent the spread, just to name a few.

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