President-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris attended a memorial service honouring the 400,000 Americans who have died of Covid-19 at the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday.
The grim milestone was passed earlier on Tuesday as the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University show that about 401,128 people have now been killed by the virus in the US.
In his remarks Mr Biden said: "To heal, we must remember. It's hard, sometimes, to remember. But that's how we heal. It's important to do that as a nation."
The memorial was hosted by Biden’s inaugural committee, which described the event as “a chance to reflect and honour those no longer with us".
The committee had called for a “national moment of unity”, asking Americans to light candles in their windows. Organisers also asked for participants to ring bells for a “national moment of remembrance”.
Harris delivered brief remarks at the event before introducing Lori Key, a Detroit nurse who has helped Covid-19 patients.
“We gather tonight, a nation in mourning, to pay tribute to lives we have lost, a grandmother or grandfather who is our whole world, a parent, partner, sibling or friend who we still cannot accept is no longer here, and for many months we have grieved by ourselves,” vice president-elect Harris said.
Ms Key sang Amazing Grace at the ceremony shortly after.
The memorial marks the first large-scale acknowledgment of Covid-19’s massive toll on individuals, families and communities across the US.
President-elect Biden’s recognition of the tragedy has been seen a a huge difference to that of Donald Trump, who repeatedly downplayed the dangers of coronavirus.
Biden has promised a sweeping plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic, including vaccinating 100 million US residents in his first 100 days in office.
It’s unclear whether Biden’s $1.9tn coronavirus plan will get necessary bipartisan support. Congress members in both parties have voiced concern about the cost.