Daily average deaths and hospitalizations from the coronavirus have fallen to their lowest levels since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. 

There were 1,235 daily deaths recorded in the last 24 hours with figures now at their lowest since the middle of October, at the start of this winter’s wave of infections. 

On Monday, the number of people currently in hospital with the virus fell to 55,403 marking 41 straight days of falling hospitalization numbers. 

The promising news brought by the declining figures was also coupled with a restarting of the vaccination program which came to a virtual halt due to bad weather across much of the country last week. 

The number of daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all now falling

A closer look at the figures show the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all down. So too is testing but that may be due to recent bad weather with testing sites closed

Lit in memory: The South Portico was illuminated by candles for the ceremony of remembrance, and federal flags were lowered to half staff for five days of mourning

First and second couples: Joe and Jill Biden and Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff stood in memory of the dead during the moment’s silence

It led to a hold up in vaccines being delivered with many cities having to cancel appointments due to a lack of supply. 

But such optimism was tempered  as America surpassed 500,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic on Monday.  

At sunset, President Joe Biden made remarks and held a national moment of silence as he confronted the country’s loss.

Biden attempted to strike a balance between mourning and hope.

Addressing the ‘grim, heartbreaking milestone’ directly and publicly, Biden stepped to a lectern in the White House Cross Hall, unhooked his face mask and delivered an emotion-filled eulogy for more than 500,000 Americans he said he felt he knew.

Candles of memory: The White House placed 500 candles on the South Portico, one for each of the thousand people who have died

‘Today we mark a truly grim heartbreaking milestone,’ he said in a speech to the nation before praying in silent on the South Portico of the White House where 500 candles were lit to symbolize the 500,000 dead. 

‘We often hear people described as ordinary Americans. There’s no such thing,’ he said Monday evening. ‘There’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary.’

‘You’re going to be okay,’ he said, speaking directly to those who have lost someone to COVID.

He reminded Americans that the virus can affect anyone. ‘It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus,’ he said.

‘It’s our fellow Americans. It’s our neighbors, our friends, our mothers our fathers our sons our daughters, husbands, wives, we have to fight this together as one people as the United States of America,’ he said.

He addressed the heartbreak that so many families felt at not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones, noting the cruelty that comes with death in a pandemic.

‘Just like that,’ he added, ‘so many of them took their last breath alone.’

‘As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel thing.’ 

The White House lowered its flag to half staff at 5pm on Monday as the United States topped 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic

Flags will be lowered on federal property for five days

After the president spoke, he, Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff stepped outside to the South Portico of the White House for a remembrance ceremony. Surrounded by candles as the sun set, the four bowed their heads as the Marine Band played ‘Amazing Grace.’ 

About 19% of total global coronavirus deaths have occurred in the United States, an outsized figure given that the nation accounts for just 4% of the world’s population.

 The country has the highest overall death figure, reflecting the lack of a unified, national response.   

The figure of 500,000 matches the number of Americans killed in the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam combined.

The lives lost, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University, are about equal to the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and greater than that of Miami; Raleigh, North Carolina; or Omaha, Nebraska.

Average daily deaths and cases have plummeted in the past few weeks, but experts warn that dangerous variants could cause the trend to reverse itself.

Some experts say not enough Americans have been inoculated yet for the vaccine to be making much of a difference.

Instead, the drop-off in deaths and cases has been attributed to the passing of the holidays; the cold and bleak days of midwinter, when many people are inclined to stay home; and better adherence to mask rules and social distancing.

The first known deaths from the virus in the US happened in early February 2020. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead. The toll hit 200,000 deaths in September and 300,000 in December.

Then it took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000 and about two months to climb from 400,000 to the brink of 500,000.

The US recorded an estimated 405,000 deaths in the Second World War, 58,000 in the Vietnam War and 36,000 in the Korean War.



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