HALF a million people in the United States have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus.
According to a Reuters tally of public health data, the country logged more than 28 million COVID-19 cases and 500,264 fatalities on Monday, February 22.
The grim number of deaths “matches the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined,” the Associated Press reported.
The U.S. recorded an estimated 405,000 deaths in World War II, 58,000 in the Vietnam War and 36,000 in the Korean War.
“These numbers are stunning,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said in a “Good Morning America” interview.
“If you look back historically, we’ve done worse than almost any other country and we’re a highly developed, rich country,” he added.
To mark the grim milestone, U.S. President Joe Biden held a sunset moment of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony at the White House. He also ordered the American flags lowered to half-staff on public buildings and grounds until February 26.
Bells also tolled at the National Cathedral in Washington to honor the lives lost.
“As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate. We’ve been fighting this pandemic for so long. We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow,” said Biden.
He added, “We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or on the news. We must do so to honor the dead, but equally important care for the living, those they left behind.”
Biden urged Americans to stay vigilant and follow safety protocols amid the pandemic.
“I ask all Americans to remember, remember those we lost and those they left behind. I also ask us to act, to remain vigilant, to say socially distant, to mask up, to get vaccinated,” he said.
“We have to fight this together as one people, as the United States of America,” he added.
The president was joined by first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff in marking a moment of silence in front of 500 candles representing the death toll.
In a separate tweet, Biden said: “500,000 lives lost to COVID-19. It’s an unfathomable number, but each one represents a family that will never again be whole. To those who have lost loved ones: I know no words can numb the pain, but I hope you find some solace in knowing the nation grieves with you.”
The U.S. has reported more COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other country in the world.
However, average daily deaths and cases have plummeted in the past few weeks, as reported by AP. The fatalities have fallen from more than 4,000 reported on some days in January to an average of fewer than 1,900 per day.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also said that about 19.4 million Americans have been fully vaccinated as of Sunday, while more than 44.1 million Americans have received their first dose.