WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday marked the “tragic milestone” of 1 million American lives lost to COVID-19, calling each death an “irreplaceable loss.”
“One million empty chairs around the dinner table,” Biden said in a statement. “Each leaving behind a family, a community, and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic. Jill and I pray for each of them.”
Biden is directing flags on government buildings to be flown at half-staff for five days.
While COVID counts vary, the White House is using data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins University, which showed deaths approaching the 1 million mark Thursday morning.
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Biden said he understands those who are grieving, asking themselves how they can go on without a loved one.
“I know the pain of that black hole in your heart,” said Biden, who has dealt with the loss of two of his children and his first wife. “But I also know the ones you love are never truly gone. They will always be with you.”
The president also used the moment to urge Congress to approve the additional funding he’s requested to continue to fight the pandemic. Without more money now, the United States will lose its place in line for new COVID treatments and vaccines for the fall when a new variant could hit, according to the administration.
Republicans have insisted that the funding could come from previously passed pandemic packages.