The United States is facing a dark milestone this week, despite the recent drop in COVID-19 cases as it prepares to mark a staggering half a million deaths, with President Joe Biden planning to commemorate the lost lives.
While the number of COVID-19 cases fell for the fifth week in a row and officials encrypted to inoculate the population, the nation was ready to reach 500,000 deaths from the highly contagious respiratory disease.
It has been almost a year since the pandemic hit the country with a duel of public health and economic crises.
“It’s not something we’ve ever been through in the last 102 years since the flu pandemic of 1918 … It’s really a terrible situation that we’ve been through – and that we’re still going through,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s COVID-19 medical adviser and the country’s top infectious official, told CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday.
The White House said on Sunday that it planned a memorial event where Biden would leave comments.
A White House spokesman said the president along with First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff would remain silent on Monday and there would be a candlelight vigil at sunset.
Biden last month observed America’s COVID-19 death ahead of his inauguration with a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial’s Reflecting Pool.
Biden will use “his own voice and platform to take a moment to remember the people whose lives have been lost, the families who are still suffering … at what is still a very difficult moment in this country,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki in the White House told reporters on Friday.
Still at “very high” level
More than 28 million COVID-19 cases have shaken the United States and 497,862 have died, although daily average deaths and hospital stays have fallen to their lowest levels since before Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday. The virus took a full year of average life expectancy in the United States, the largest decline since World War II.
While the decline “is really amazing … we’re still at a very high level,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “We want to get that baseline really, really, really low before we start thinking we’re out in the woods.”
Fauci told CNN that Americans may still need masks by 2022, although other measures to stop the spread of the virus are becoming more relaxed and more vaccines are being administered, and they may also need a booster shot depending on how variants appear.
Less than 15% of the US population has received at least one vaccine dose, almost 43 million get at least one shot and almost 18 million get a second shot, US statistics show.
More places ease certain restrictions, such as indoor dinners, and move to reopen schools even as millions wait for their shots, sparking debate about the safety of teachers, students and others.
The economic pressure also continues to weigh even when economists express optimism for the coming year. Congress weighs Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, with the House of Representatives expected to vote on it this week and the Senate trying to approve it before March 14.