(HealthDay News) — It is a number many Americans have grimly expected but may still find hard to comprehend: More than 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19.

“Today, we mark a tragic milestone: one million American lives lost to COVID-19,” President Joe Biden remarked in a speech posted Thursday morning on the White House website. “One million empty chairs around the dinner table. Each an irreplaceable loss. Each leaving behind a family, a community, and a Nation forever changed because of this pandemic.”

Biden ordered that U.S. flags be flown at half-staff Thursday in honor of those lost.

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“As a Nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow,” Biden said. “To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention death tally for COVID-19 in the United States stood at 995,747 as of Thursday morning, but that number is expected to reach 1 million soon. A COVID-19 fatalities count compiled by trackers at Johns Hopkins University puts the toll near 999,000.

The first fatal case reported to the CDC occurred in Washington state on Feb. 29, 2020, although more recent investigations now suggest that the first American deaths may have occurred in early January of that year.

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