On the evening before he is sworn into office, President-elect Joe Biden plans to lead a solemn memorial service in the nation’s capital to honor the Americans who lost their lives to COVID-19.
Nearly 20 million people in the U.S. have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the crisis and more than 340,000 have died ― grim statistics that reflect a sluggish and haphazard response by the federal government under outgoing President Donald Trump.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19, just after sunset, Biden will host a ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool to remember the dead. The Presidential Inauguration Committee is encouraging local leaders around the country to join at that time by illuminating buildings and ringing church bells.
Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration will represent “the beginning of a new national journey,” the committee’s communications director Pili Tobar said.
“However, in the midst of a pandemic ― when so many Americans are grieving the loss of family, friends, and neighbors ― it is important that we honor those who have died, reflect on what has been one of the more challenging periods in the nation’s history, and renew our commitment to coming together to end the pandemic and rebuild our nation,” Tobar said.
Because of pandemic safety measures, Biden’s inauguration is to be held partly outdoors, and largely virtually.
Trump ordered flags lowered to half-staff on Memorial Day to recognize COVID-19 deaths, but Biden’s Lincoln Memorial ceremony will be the first federal tribute of its kind to individuals who have lost their lives in the pandemic. It likely will present a stark contrast with Trump’s handling of the health crisis, which has been criticized for lacking empathy.
After his release from Walter Reed medical center, where he was treated for COVID-19 in October, Trump called on Americans not to allow the virus to “dominate” their lives, prompting families of coronavirus victims to accuse the president of minimizing their pain and loss.
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