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President Biden Honors Americans Killed By COVID-19

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President Joe Biden honored the more than 500,000 people who have died from coronavirus with a moment of silence at the White House. WBZ-TV's Ken MacLeod reports.

Video Transcript

DAVID WADE: Heart-wrenching milestone in the battle against the coronavirus. More than 500,000 Americans have now lost their lives to COVID-19. Here in Massachusetts, more than 15,000 people have died, with that number creeping up every day. Even with cases improving and more people getting vaccinated, the virus and its variants still pose a threat. President Biden marked the half-million mark with a moment of silence tonight outside of the White House. Ken MacLeod joins us now. And Ken, a somber day, but there is hope for the future.

KEN MACLEOD: Yeah, David, tonight's brief speech by the president was vintage Biden as "consoler-in-chief," referencing the tragedy in his own life and reaching out to families ravaged by COVID-19.

He read the grim milestone off a card he carries daily.

JOE BIDEN: 500,071 dead.

KEN MACLEOD: It's a reminder of the nation's pain, symbolized minutes later by 500 candles outside the White House, where the president led a moment of silence.

JOE BIDEN: We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.

KEN MACLEOD: But that's hard, now that COVID has killed more Americans than World War I, II, and Vietnam combined.

LISA SULLIVAN: I think it's overwhelming and sad that we have to mark such an occasion.

KEN MACLEOD: Lisa Sullivan's elderly mom died from COVID at a Belmont nursing home last April. Her broken-hearted dad then gave up on his cancer treatments and died in September. Lisa would rather not revisit the nightmare.

LISA SULLIVAN: I have a mother-in-law who's 82 years old, and I still cannot get her a vaccine.

KEN MACLEOD: Her frustration with America's vaccination rollout is not unique, of course, and neither is her fear.

LISA SULLIVAN: And I think some people are going to catch this hideous disease and possibly die from it when there's a vaccine. It makes no sense to me.

KEN MACLEOD: Indeed, experts at the University of Washington are projecting 90,000 more deaths by June 1st. Just last month, Jessica Desfosses lost her husband, a Norton police sergeant and father of four. And she's become a vocal advocate for staying the course on those familiar COVID basics, like masks and distancing.

JESSICA DESFOSSES: I know it's hard, but there is nothing as hard as losing someone important in your life when it could have been prevented.

JOE BIDEN: This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again.

KEN MACLEOD: Tonight, as the president asked Americans to remember those lost, he also urged them to use the memory as a springboard for healing. And he reminded all of us that this year of profound loss also featured profound courage.

JOE BIDEN: Let this not be a story of how far we fell, but of how far we climbed back up. We can do this.

KEN MACLEOD: This was not an effort to sell his $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan. President Biden never even mentioned it. But he did say that one of the greatest tragedies of this pandemic is that so many Americans had to die with no family at their bedside. Lisa?

LISA HUGHES: So painful. Ken, thank you.