WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — From the Lincoln Memorial to the Empire State building, landmarks across the United States were illuminated on Tuesday evening as part of a ceremony led by President-elect Joe Biden to honor the 400,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19.
The commemoration comes just hours before President Donald Trump leaves the White House and hands over a country in crisis. The ceremony, spearheaded by Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will be the federal government’s first nod to the staggering death toll from the pandemic.
Biden and Harris led a lighting ceremony at the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial at 5:15 p.m. ET, followed by a moment of silence and 400 bell tolls at the National Cathedral to symbolically honor the COVID-19 dead.
“Hundreds of towns, cities, tribes, landmarks, and communities all across the country have committed to joining the tribute in a national moment of unity,” Biden’s inaugural committee said in a statement.
The United States surpassed 24 million COVID-19 infections and 400,000 lives lost from the virus on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country has recorded more than 200,000 new cases and 3,220 deaths on average over the last seven days.
Among the other landmarks participating in the lighting ceremony were the Empire State Building in New York City and the Space Needle in Seattle, according to the statement. The inaugural committee said it was encouraging Americans to light candles in their windows and churches to ring their bells in a show of unity.
Local officials from Miami, Florida, to San Diego, California, said buildings in their cities would be lit for the occasion.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City was inviting the public to light a candle on its front steps on Tuesday evening before a solemn bell toll.
The ceremony marks the beginning of a new era in the country’s battle against COVID-19 under Biden, who has pledged to make coronavirus relief a top priority when he takes office on Wednesday under unprecedented security measures in the nation’s capital.
Reuters contributed to this report.