President Biden, anticipating the grim milestone of one million American lives lost to Covid-19, said in a formal statement Thursday that the United States must remain committed to fighting a virus that has “forever changed” the country.
“We must remain vigilant in this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible as we have more tests, vaccines and treatments than ever before,” he said. “It is critical that Congress maintain these resources in the coming months.”
The statement came hours before Biden convenes his second Covid-19 summit, aimed at injecting new urgency into the global response to the coronavirus. Mr. Biden will also issue a proclamation Thursday ordering flags at the White House and all federal buildings to fly at half-staff through next Monday to commemorate the million deaths.
As of Wednesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported more than 995,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States; a New York Times database puts the figure at more than 997,000. But with heads of state, philanthropic leaders and drugmakers attending the virtual meeting, Biden was ready to mark the moment ahead.
Well into the third year of the pandemic, covid-19 has become the third leading cause of death among Americans, behind only heart disease and cancer. Its toll has rippled deep into the lives of families across America. An estimated 250,000 children have lost their parents or caregivers to Covid-19; of them, nearly 200,000 have lost one or both parents.
The pandemic has also defined Biden’s presidency. Mr. Biden entered office promising to conquer covid-19, but hopes of achieving “herd immunity” through the combination of vaccination and exposure gave way to the harsh realization that the protective power of vaccines against infection could decrease and that the new variants would increase reinfection. common. Political divisions have frustrated mask and vaccine mandates.
Thursday’s meeting is an effort by the president to put Covid-19 back on the radar screen, both in the United States and around the world. The White House has asked Congress for $22.5 billion in new emergency coronavirus aid, but the request is stalled on Capitol Hill, as is a proposed commitment of $10 billion in aid.
Senior Biden administration officials said Mr. Biden would use the summit to make a new request to Congress to authorize the money.