Biden Marks 'Tragic Milestone' as US Nears 1 Million COVID Deaths

The president ordered flags flown at half-staff.

Carrie Mihalcik Former Managing Editor / News
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Small white flags cover the National Mall to mark COVID-19 deaths

Flags cover the National Mall in DC to mark deaths from COVID-19 as part of an art installation this past summer. 

Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Thursday urged Americans to "remain vigilant against this pandemic" in a formal statement in anticipation of the US hitting a "tragic milestone": 1 million deaths from COVID-19

"One million empty chairs around the dinner table," the president said. "Each an irreplaceable loss. Each leaving behind a family, a community, and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic."

Biden, who joined in a second global COVID-19 summit on Thursday, ordered flags at the White House and federal buildings to be flown at half-staff until May 16. 

As of Wednesday, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed 998,997 deaths from COVID-19 in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had the tally at 995,747. Around the world, more than 6 million people have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic over two years ago.

Mask mandates have largely been dropped in the US and many people have returned to mostly normal life. However, newer version of the omicron variant continue to cause COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, though numbers remain relatively low compared with the winter surge. 

The White House has asked Congress for additional COVID-19 aid to boost the availability of tests, vaccines and treatments, but the $10 billion agreement has reportedly stalled in the Senate. During the summit on Thursday, Biden is expected to urge Congress to authorize the funds. 

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