Biden called the milestone “truly grim” and “heartbreaking” as he noted the pandemic has taken more American lives than WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War combined.
“That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth,” Biden said.
At least 500,071 people had died of the virus at the time of his remarks.
The president empathized with families who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19, reminding them that there is a way through the sorrow and grief.
“To those who have lost loved ones this is what I know, they’re never truly gone, they’ll always be part of your heart,” Biden said. “The day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye … my prayer for you is that [those days] will come sooner rather than later.”
The president, first lady, vice president and second gentleman held a moment of silence outside of the White House, where there were 500 lit candles meant to represent the more than 500,000 American lives lost.
President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Doug Emhoff participate in a moment of silence during a ceremony to honor the 500,000 Americans that died from COVID-19, at the White House, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Biden also urged Americans to resist becoming “numb” to the death toll, and not to view the deaths simply as a statistic reported on television.
“We can find purpose – purpose worthy of the lives they lived and worthy of the country we love,” Biden said.