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Biden mourns 500,000 Americans who died of COVID-19

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"Today we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone."

President Joe Biden commemorated the deaths of 500,000 Americans from COVID-19 at the White House on Monday, just over a year since the coronavirus pandemic claimed its first known victim in the country.

"As a nation, we cannot accept such a cruel fate."

Biden also called on Americans to remain vigilant, continue wearing masks, and set aside partisan differences... and fight the pandemic together.

"We must end the politics of misinformation that have divided families, communities and the country. It's cost too many lives already."

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Biden's top adviser on COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said political divisiveness contributed significantly to the "stunning" death toll.

"There's red states and blue states that, you know, are almost hostile to each other in some respects because of political differences. I think that's the worst possible ingredients to be able to address an outbreak of an infection that - even under the best of circumstances - would be a formidable challenge."

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.

Bells tolled at the National Cathedral in Washington to honor the lives lost - ringing 500 times to symbolize the 500,000 deaths.

Biden also ordered that all flags on federal properties and military facilities be lowered to half-staff for the next five days.

After his speech, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses stood silently as "Amazing Grace" was played.

Video Transcript

JOE BIDEN: Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone.

- US President Joe Biden commemorated the deaths of 500,000 Americans from COVID-19 at the White House on Monday, just over a year since the coronavirus pandemic claimed its first known victim in the country.

JOE BIDEN: As a nation, we can't accept such a cruel fate.

- Biden also called on Americans to remain vigilant, continue wearing masks, and set aside partisan differences and fight the pandemic together.

JOE BIDEN: We must end the politics of misinformation that's divided families and communities in the country. It has cost too many lives already.

- In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Biden's top advisor on COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said political divisiveness contributed significantly to the stunning death toll.

ANTHONY FAUCI: There's red states and blue states that, you know, are almost hostile to each other in some respects because of political differences. I think that's the worst possible ingredients to be able to address an outbreak of an infection that even under the best of circumstances would be a formidable challenge.

- 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.

[BELL TOLLING]

Bells tolled at the National Cathedral in Washington to honor the lives lost, ringing 500 times to symbolize the 500,000 deaths. Biden also ordered that all flags on federal properties and military facilities be lowered to half staff for the next five days. After his speech, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and their spouses stood silently as "Amazing Grace" was played.

[MUSIC - "AMAZING GRACE"]