US nears 500,000 COVID-19 deaths as Biden plans commemoration
The United States faces a dark milestone this week as it prepares to mark a staggering half-million COVID-19 deaths, with President Joe Biden planning to memorialize the lives lost.
While the number of COVID-19 cases fell for the fifth straight week and officials scrambled to inoculate the population, the nation was poised to reach 500,000 deaths from the highly infectious respiratory disease.
It has been nearly a year since the pandemic upended the country with dueling public health and economic crises.
"It's nothing like we've ever been through in the last 102 years since the 1918 influenza pandemic. ... It really is a terrible situation that we've been through - and that we're still going through," Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House COVID-19 medical adviser and the nation's top infectious disease official, told CNN's "State of the Union" program on Sunday.
The White House said on Sunday it planned a memorial event in which Biden would deliver remarks.
A White House spokesman said the president along with first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff would hold a moment of silence on Monday and there would be a candle-lighting ceremony at sundown.
Biden last month observed America's COVID-19 deaths on the eve of his inauguration with a sundown 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," White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday.