Biden inaugural events to include memorial ceremony for COVID-19 victims on Jan. 19

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President-elect Joe Biden is planning on including a lighting ceremony commemorating the American lives lost to COVID-19 as part of the events for his inauguration.

The vigil will be held the day before his inauguration at 5:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, according to the transition team.

“The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris represents the beginning of a new national journey,” Pili Tobar, the communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in a statement.

“However, in the midst of a pandemic — when so many Americans are grieving the loss of family, friends, and neighbors — it is important that we honor those who have died, reflect on what has been one of the more challenging periods in the nation’s history, and renew our commitment to coming together to end the pandemic and rebuild our nation.”

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Many of the inauguration’s traditional ceremonies will be eliminated or “reimagined” considering the pandemic. The lighting ceremony will be one of the few in-person additions to the programming. Most inaugural activities are scheduled to take place virtually.

The ceremony will also include building lightings and church bells ringing across Washington, D.C., and the committee has called on Americans across the country to join in as part of “a national moment of unity and remembrance.”

Throughout the pandemic, Americans have erected memorials and created art to commemorate the lives lost to the coronavirus.

More than 341,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Dec. 31 and almost 20 million diagnosed as the virus continues to spread across the country.

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Biden has said the coming months would be “a very tough period for our nation” and that things are going to “get worse before they get better” while still urging Americans to stay strong and take necessary precautions.

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“It’s hard on your lives and your livelihoods and your kids and your families,” Biden said. “We need to steel our spines and forge ahead.”

Biden and aides have criticized the Trump administration for a slow rollout of coronavirus vaccines, which public health officials say are the most surefire way to inoculate the population and get life back to normal.

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The administration had promised that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by the end of December. While it has deployed about 14.7 million doses of vaccines, only approximately 2.1 million Americans have been vaccinated.

In his remarks Tuesday, Biden said that at that rate it, “it will take years, not months” to vaccinate a high enough proportion of the population to allow normal life to resume.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden inauguration: COVID-19 memorial planned for Jan. 19

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