Biden and Harris lead Lincoln Memorial vigil for Covid victims as US death toll passes 400,000

The US crossed the tragic milestone of 400,000 Covid deaths on president Trump’s final day in office

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 20 January 2021 06:12 GMT

'To heal we must remember': Joe Biden pays tribute to coronavirus dead at memorial

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During a Covid memorial service in Washington DC on Tuesday, president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president elect Kamala Harris offered their condolences to a weary nation. 

“To heal we must remember,” Mr Biden said. “It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all who we lost.”

On the evening of president Trump’s final full day in office, the US officially tallied 400,000 dead from coronavirus. All told, more than 24 million Americans have had confirmed cases of Covid.

“My abiding hope, my abiding prayer is that we emerge from this ordeal with a new wisdom,” Ms Harris said, before introducing Lori Marie Key, a Covid nurse from outside Detroit, who sang the hymn “Amazing Grace”.

Mr Biden, Ms Harris, and their families observed 400 lighted beacons surrounding the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool, each one representing 1,000 people who  perished during the pandemic. 

Similar memorials will be held around the country including at the Empire State Building in New York City and the Space Needle in Seattle.

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“May our prayer this evening serve as a small expression of our national desire to comfort and strengthen those who have endured the loss of a loved one to this pandemic, and may it be a resounding gesture of gratitude for all those who have cared for the victims of this virus and their loved ones,” Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, said to open the event. 

“Our sorrow unites us to one another, as a single people with compassionate hearts. May our prayer strengthen our awareness of our common humanity and our national unity at a time when harmony is a balm that seeks to comfort and strengthen us as a single people facing a  common threat.”

On Friday, federal health officials warned that a new, highly contagious variant of Covid first identified in Britain could become the driving source of infections by March, leading to yet another surge in cases before the US even is on a path to recover from the previous ones this winter. 

Earlier in the day, President Trump also offered his remembrances to Covid victims in a farewell address from the White House.

“We grieve for every life lost, and pledge in their memory to wipe out this terrible pandemic once and for all,” Mr Trump said. 

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