Biden speaks as US officially hits 500,000 total COVID-19 deaths | FULL

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With sunset remarks and a national moment of silence, President Joe Biden delivered a powerful acknowledgement of the country’s once-unimaginable loss — half a million Americans in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Confronting the grim milestone directly and publicly, Biden is trying to strike a balance between gravity and hope, while former president Donald Trump generally avoided constructs of collective grief for the deaths on his watch.

Monday’s bleak threshold was playing out against contradictory crosscurrents: an encouraging drop in coronavirus cases and worries about the spread of more contagious variants.

Following his remarks, the president, alongside First Lady Jill Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, held a moment of silence and candle-lighting ceremony in the victims' honour.

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