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WATCH: Biden holds memorial as US death toll passes 500k

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BATON ROUGE, La. (KWWL/AP) -- States are redoubling their efforts to get the coronavirus vaccine into more arms after last week's winter weather closed clinics, slowed vaccine deliveries and forced tens of thousands of people to miss their shots.

The effort is unfolding as the nation passes a startling new milestone: 500,000 deaths from COVID-19.

According to the Associated Press, this all but matches the number of Americans killed in World War II, 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.

The U.S. toll is by far the highest reported in the world.

Despite the rollout of vaccines since mid-December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington projects more than 589,000 dead by June 1.

President Joe Biden will honor the dead with a moment of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony at the White House.

He will also order U.S. flags lowered at federal buildings for the next five days.

A statement from President Biden was released on the official White House website.

As of this week during the dark winter of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 500,000 Americans have now died from the virus. That is more Americans who have died in a single year of this pandemic than in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. On this solemn occasion, we reflect on their loss and on their loved ones left behind. We, as a Nation, must remember them so we can begin to heal, to unite, and find purpose as one Nation to defeat this pandemic.

In their memory, the First Lady and I will be joined by the Vice President and the Second Gentleman for a moment of silence at the White House this evening. I ask all Americans to join us as we remember the more than 500,000 of our fellow Americans lost to COVID-19 and to observe a moment of silence at sunset. I also hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset February 26, 2021. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-second day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.

President Joe Biden

Biden will deliver remarks at the ceremony that is set to begin at 5:15 p.m. Central. You will be able to watch on this story, or on the KWWL Facebook Page.

KWWL will have a full report honoring eastern Iowans who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 tonight at 10.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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