Relatives of people killed by the virus in the United States are organizing a national day of mourning for victims and survivors of the pandemic, to be held in Washington on Sunday, Oct. 4.
The event reflects grass-roots efforts that are gaining momentum around the country to acknowledge the losses experienced by thousands of families. At least 206,700 people have died from the virus in the United States as of Wednesday, with hundreds more added every day. Infectious disease experts warn that the way things are going, the death toll could surpass 300,000 by the end of the year.
The ceremony, called the National Covid-19 Remembrance, will involve a service held in the Ellipse, a park directly south of the White House. Organizers say the socially distanced event will include a moment of silence led by faith leaders, live and recorded musical performances and the installation of 20,000 empty chairs on the Ellipse, each one representing 10 or more lives lost during the pandemic. The singer Dionne Warwick, a former United States ambassador of health, is scheduled to host the ceremony.
The mobilization for the ceremony comes as President Trump has been trying to play down the impact of the virus, claiming it “affects virtually nobody.” As they call on political leaders to do more to curb the spread of the virus, organizers say they are drawing inspiration from previous remembrances for victims of gun violence, of the AIDS epidemic and of terrorist attacks.
“The lack of recognition has compounded people’s grief and trauma,” said Chris Kocher, executive director of Covid Survivors for Change, an organization created in June that is leading the remembrance effort. “We want to give folks a space where their loved ones can be honored and remembered.”