On the evening before his inauguration during which he became the nation’s 46th commander in chief, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the lead in a ceremony that honored the 400,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19.
The ceremony, which took place at the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday, would be replicated at other U.S. landmarks including the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan where Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has long been critical of the Trump administration’s vaccine distribution plan.
On Monday, Cuomo described the federal supply of vaccine which has decreased by 50,000 since last week as a “drip, drip” flow.
In addition, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the delay in available vaccine “crazy,” adding that NYC remains on pace to run out of vaccine Friday without a “major” resupply beyond its weekly federal allocation.
The candle-lighting ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial marked the Biden administration’s first step toward tackling the national death toll that is averaging more than 3,000 people a day.
The commemoration included a moment of silence and 400 bell tolls at the National Cathedral to symbolically honor America’s COVID-19 dead, a moving prayer by Archbishop Wilton Cardinal Gregory, the seventh archbishop of Washington, and a musical tribute by gospel great Yolanda Adams.
“Hundreds of towns, cities, tribes, landmarks, and communities all across the country have committed to joining the tribute in a national moment of unity,” Biden’s inaugural committee said in a statement.
The U.S. surpassed 24 million COVID-19 infections and 400,000 lives lost from the virus on Tuesday, according to HYPERLINK “https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html” \t “_blank” Johns Hopkins University. The country has recorded more than 200,000 new cases and 3,220 deaths on average over the last seven days.
As he made clear during his inaugural address, the ceremony marked the start of a new era in the country’s battle against COVID-19. In his inaugural address, Biden pledged to make coronavirus relief a top priority.
In his opening salvo to combat the pandemic, Biden says his policy changes will include a mask mandate applicable to federal properties, planes and buses and a recommitment to the World Health Organization from which Trump withdrawal during his presidency.
However, with pomp and circumstance behind him, Biden is now under pressure to get to work and deal with the formidable task of marshaling coronavirus vaccine distribution and administration in the U.S.
Despite assurances repeatedly made by former President Trump, the U.S. currently lags in its vaccination goal of 20 million inoculations by the end of 2020. So far, 12.3 million shots have been administered out of more than 31 million doses distributed as of Jan. 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many states, who bear the responsibility of rolling out their own vaccine programs, have been highly critical of what they call a lack of funding and support from the federal government. Biden has said he will seek $1.9 trillion in new spending, a proposal that would include funds for accelerating the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
And Capitol Hill Democrats, emboldened by a newfound, but slender, majority in Congress, have said they plan to make state and local aid a priority in the next stimulus deal.
Deadly Data on COVID-19
The U.S. is recording at least 199,700 new COVID-19 cases and at least 2,960 virus-related deaths each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data.
The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:
Global cases: More than 96.28 million
Global deaths: At least 2.06 million
U.S. cases: More than 24.25 million
U.S. deaths: At least 401,797