Biden to mark nation reaching 500,000 COVID-19 deaths

President Joe Biden returns to the White House
President Joe Biden returns to the White House after a trip to Michigan on Friday in Washington. The president traveled to Kalamazoo, Mich., to visit Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing facility.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

President Joe Biden will mark the U.S. reaching the grim milestone of 500,000 lives lost from COVID-19 with a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony at the White House.

The nation is expected to reach that mark on Monday, just over a year after the first confirmed U.S. fatality due to the novel coronavirus.

The White House said Biden will deliver remarks at sunset to honor those who lost their lives. He will be joined by first lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. They will participate in the moment of silence and lighting ceremony.

Biden has made a point of recognizing the lives lost from the virus. His first event upon arriving in Washington for his inauguration a month ago was to deliver remarks at a COVID-19 memorial ceremony.

As of Sunday, more than a year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost in the U.S. was about 498,000 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta. The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined.

“It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on CNN's “State of the Union.”

The global death toll was approaching 2.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins.

While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real death toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and cases inaccurately attributed to other causes early on.

Despite efforts to administer coronavirus vaccines, a widely cited model by the University of Washington projects the U.S. death toll will surpass 589,000 by June 1.

"People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

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