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‘We must resist becoming numb’: Biden marks 500,000 Covid deaths with national address – as it happened

Evening summary

We are wrapping up our live US politics coverage for tonight, but you can continue to get updates from my colleague Helen Sullivan on our global coronavirus blog.

Key events from today, updated from our earlier coverage:

  • The US coronavirus death toll surpassed 500,000, representing the highest death toll of any country in the world.
  • Joe Biden addressed a grieving nation, telling Americans “we must resist becoming numb,” and offering personal lessons about survivor’s guilt and the importance of taking time to mourn. He also referenced one of the contributors to the massive death toll, warning, “We must end the politics of misinformation.”
  • Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said in an interview that political divisions had contributed significantly to the “stunning” US Covid-19 death toll, and that half a million deaths “should not have happened” in “a rich and sophisticated country”.
  • Fauci also said that new coronavirus variants made the timeline of the pandemic’s end more uncertain.
  • The supreme court rejected Donald Trump’s request to block New York prosecutors from gaining access to his tax returns. The court’s decision clears the way for Trump’s accounting firm to hand over eight years of his tax returns and financial documents to a grand jury examining the former president’s business dealings.
  • The attorney general nominee Merrick Garland testified before the Senate judiciary committee. In his confirmation hearing, Garland pledged to protect the independence of the justice department if he is confirmed as attorney general. “I am not the president’s lawyer,” the federal judge said. “I am the United States’ lawyer.”
  • The House budget committee advanced Biden’s $1.9tn coronavirus relief package. In a nearly party-line vote of 19-16, the committee approved advancing the relief package. The bill now goes to the House rules committee before the full chamber votes on it later this week.

Small study finds teachers, more than students, driving Covid infections at school

From the Associated Press:

A new study finds that teachers may be more important drivers of Covid-19 transmission in schools than students.

The paper released Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies nine Covid-19 transmission clusters in elementary schools in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta in December and January.

“Educators played an important role in the spread,” the CDC director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, told reporters in an online briefing Monday. “Covid-19 spread often occurred during in-person meetings or lunches and then subsequently spread to classrooms.”

The findings line up with studies from the United Kingdom that found teacher-to-teacher was the most common type of school transmission there, and a German study that found in-school transmission rates were three times higher when the first documented case was a teacher. In some American districts, schools have had to go all-virtual because so many teachers have been exposed to the virus.

First Black Bachelor speaks out on the show’s current and past racism controversies

The first Black star of The Bachelor has released a diplomatically-worded statement about his concerns with longtime host Chris Harrison’s handling of a racism controversy on the reality show.

James’ full statement below:

Wife of drug kingpin “El Chapo” arrested in US airport

From the Associated Press:

The wife of the Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán was arrested Monday at an airport in Virginia on international drug trafficking charges, the justice department said, spelling out in detail how she helped plot her husband’s daring escape from a Mexico prison.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, who is a dual citizen of the US and Mexico, was arrested at Dulles international airport and is expected to appear in federal court in Washington on Tuesday.

She is charged in a single-count criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in the US. The justice department also accuses her of helping her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015 and participating in the planning of a second prison escape before Guzman was extradited to the US in January 2017.

Vice News has more on Coronel Aispuro’s alleged role:

US coronavirus deaths already match toll of three wars

New from the Associated Press:

The Covid-19 death toll in the US topped 500,000 Monday, a staggering number that all but matches the number of Americans killed in the second world war, Korea and Vietnam combined.

The US recorded an estimated 405,000 deaths in the second world war, 58,000 in the Vietnam war and 36,000 in the Korean war.

Despite the rollout of vaccines since mid-December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington projects more than 589,000 dead by 1 June.

Fauci cautions Covid-19 variants could change timeline for end of pandemic

The emergence of more contagious variants of the coronavirus, especially ones from South Africa and Brazil that have been shown to reduce the immunity from natural infections and vaccines, have made it challenging to predict when the US will be able to put the pandemic behind it, Dr Anthony Fauci told Reuters in an interview Monday.

Fauci and Biden have said the United States should return to something approaching pre-pandemic normal life around Christmas. That could change, Fauci cautioned.

The variants also change the equation when it comes to herd immunity, in which a population becomes protected from infection because of high levels of immunity from vaccines or infections.

Asked whether that is still achievable, Fauci said, “I think we can get herd immunity at least against getting sick.”

Fauci: US death toll ‘should not have happened’ in a ‘rich and sophisticated country’

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said political divisiveness contributed significantly to the “stunning” US Covid-19 death toll, and said that half a million deaths “should not have happened” in “a rich and sophisticated country”, Reuters reports.

“Even under the best of circumstances, this would have been a very serious problem,” Fauci said in an interview with Reuters on Monday, noting that despite strong adherence to public health measures, countries such as Germany and the UK struggled with the virus.

“However, that does not explain how a rich and sophisticated country can have the most percentage of deaths and be the hardest-hit country in the world,” Fauci said. “That I believe should not have happened.”

While the United States has just about 4% of the global population, it has recorded nearly 20% of all Covid-19 deaths.

The country had recorded more than 28m Covid-19 cases and 500,054 fatalities as of Monday afternoon, according to a Reuters tally of public health data.

Biden, America’s designated mourner, shares personal lessons on grief

Joe Biden was just 29 years old when he suddenly lost his first wife, Neilia, and their young daughter, Naomi, in a car crash in 1972.

In 2015, another of Biden’s children, his 46-year-old son Beau, who had been following in his father’s political footsteps, died of brain cancer.

Throughout his political career, Biden has spoken openly about those losses. Today, as president, he did so again, faced with a national tragedy whose scale is hard to fathom: 500,000 people dead from coronavirus in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

In a brief address today, Biden spoke directly and vividly from his own experience of grief, talking about what it is like to be able to be with your loved one when they die, what it is like to be far away, and about the survivor’s guilt that the living carry with them.

He described the additional burden of not being able to take part in the normal rituals of mourning, as the dangers of infection have made normal funerals and memorial services impossible.

Biden kept his remarks focused on the experience of grief, and the necessity, for individuals and for the nation, of taking time to grieve, rather than becoming numb to the mounting losses all around them.

Americans are still reckoning with how political incompetence, racism, partisan divisions and widespread lies and conspiracy theories about coronavirus have worsened the toll of a deadly global pandemic. The president spoke only briefly to this larger political context of America’s half a million dead, saying, “We must end the politics of misinformation.”

Candles at the White House to mark half a million dead from coronavirus

Biden: ‘We must resist becoming numb to the sorrow’

Biden: ‘So many rituals that help us cope have not been available to us’

“To heal, you must remember,” President Joe Biden says now, in a very personal address to the nation on what it means to grieve lost family members, with half a million Americans dead from coronavirus.

Biden’s life and political career have been marked by the tragic deaths of close family members, and he has been called America’s “designated mourner”, a man whose life has been haunted by loss, and who has channeled that loss into empathy.

“We’ve seen profound courage from all of you on the frontlines,” Biden says. “You give us hope. You keep us going. You remind us that we do take care of our own.”

More from Biden’s speech to Americans on grieving the pandemic dead

Joe Biden addresses nation as US passes 500,000 coronavirus deaths

“I know what it’s like to not be there when it happens. I know what it’s like when you are there, holding their hands…the survivor’s remorse, the anger.”

Joe Biden is speaking about experiencing grief and loss as the United States marks 500,000 people dead.

Bells tolled 500 times in the National Cathedral to mark the pandemic dead

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