“The people we lost were extraordinary. They spanned generations,” he said. “Just like that, they took their final breath alone, in America.”
Biden will participate in a moment of silence and the ceremony, joined by first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
In remembrance of the deaths, Biden also issued a presidential proclamation Monday afternoon that ordered the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff for five days at all federal buildings and military posts in the US and abroad.
“Later today, the President, the first lady, the vice president and the second gentlemen will mark the solemn milestone of 500,000 American lives lost to Covid-19. They will ask all Americans to join in a moment of silence during a candle-lighting ceremony at sundown,” Psaki said during the press briefing.
Psaki said Biden’s remarks will “will highlight the magnitude of loss that this milestone marks for the American people and so many families across the country. He will also speak to the power of the American people to turn the tide on this pandemic by working together, following public health guidelines and getting in line to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.”
Biden, Harris and their spouses also participated in a somber ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial ahead of Inauguration Day about a month ago to mark 400,000 American lives lost to Covid-19.
Last week, Psaki said the administration was working on plans so the President could 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.”
The Biden administration’s approach to the coronavirus marks a stark contrast to how President Donald Trump responded publicly to the pandemic. Trump frequently defended his administration’s response to the pandemic but rarely expressed grief for the victims — once telling “Axios on HBO” in September that the US Covid-19 death toll “is what it is.”
While coronavirus cases are trending down and vaccinations are ticking up, the US is struggling to get a handle on the threat posed by new variants.
Experts — both inside and outside the White House — are still far from certain that America is finally clawing its way out of the pandemic, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, telling CNN Sunday that it’s “possible” Americans will still need to wear masks in 2022 to protect against the coronavirus, even as the US may reach “a significant degree of normality” by the end of this year.
This story has been updated with additional details.