Biden will order federal flags to fly at half mast as US Covid toll nears one million.

President Biden, anticipating the milestone of one million American lives lost to Covid-19, said in an official statement on Thursday that the United States must remain committed to fighting a virus that has “forever changed” the country.

“We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have done with more tests, vaccines and treatments than ever before,” he said. . “It is essential that Congress maintain these resources in the months ahead.”

The statement came hours before Mr Biden was due to convene his second Covid-19 summit, aimed at injecting new urgency into the global coronavirus response. At the summit, Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who represented the United States in the opening session with world leaders, used the gathering to mark the milestone ahead.

Mr. Biden also issued a proclamation on Thursday ordering the flags of the White House and all federal buildings to be flown at half mast until next Monday to mark the one million death mark.

As of Wednesday, the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported more than 995,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States; a New York Times database put the figure at more than 997,000. But with heads of state, leaders of philanthropies and drugmakers attending the virtual rally, Mr Biden was ready to mark the moment at to come.

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. His toll has gone deep into the lives of families across the United States. An estimated 250,000 children have lost their parents or guardians to Covid-19; of these, nearly 200,000 have lost one or both parents.

The pandemic also defined the Biden presidency. Mr Biden came into office vowing to conquer Covid-19, but hopes of achieving ‘herd immunity’ through the combination of vaccination and exposure gave way to the stark realization that the protective power vaccines against the infection could decline and that new variants made reinfection more common. Political divisions have thwarted mask and vaccine mandates.

Thursday’s meeting was an effort by the president to put Covid-19 back on the radar, both in the United States and around the world. The White House has asked Congress for $22.5 billion in emergency coronavirus aid, but the request is stalled on Capitol Hill, as is a compromise proposal for $10 billion in aid.

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