President Biden, anticipating the grim milestone of a million American lives lost to Covid-19, said in a formal statement on Thursday that the United States must remain committed to fighting a virus that has “changed the country forever.” ‘.

“We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have done with more tests, vaccines and treatments than ever before,” he said. “It is critical that Congress supports these resources in the coming months.”

The statement came hours before Mr Biden convenes his second Covid-19 summit, aiming to inject new urgency into the global response to the coronavirus. Mr. Biden will also issue a proclamation on Thursday ordering flags in the White House and all federal buildings to fly at half-mast until next Monday to mark the one million dead.

On Wednesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported more than 995,000 deaths from coronavirus in the United States; a New York Times database put the figure at over 997,000. But with heads of state, philanthropist leaders and drug manufacturers attending the virtual meeting, Mr. Biden ready to mark the moment to come.

Well into the third year of the pandemic, Covid-19 has become the third leading cause of death among Americans, after only heart disease and cancer. Its toll has extended deep into the lives of families in the United States. An estimated 250,000 children have lost parents or caregivers to Covid-19; of these, nearly 200,000 have lost one or both parents.

The pandemic has also defined Biden’s presidency. Mr Biden took office, promising to overcome Covid-19, but hopes of achieving “herd immunity” through the combination of vaccination and exposure gave way to the harsh realization that the protective power of vaccines against infection could be diminished and that new variants made reinfection more possible in common. Political divisions have thwarted mask and vaccine mandates.

Thursday’s meeting is an attempt by the president to get Covid-19 back on the radar screen, both in the United States and around the world. The White House has asked Congress for $22.5 billion in new emergency aid for the coronavirus, but the request has stalled on Capitol Hill, as has a compromise proposal for $10 billion in aid.

Senior officials in the Biden administration said Mr Biden would use the summit to make another plea for Congress to approve the money.

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