Congress holds candlelight vigil, moment of silence for 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19

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Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Congress held a candlelight vigil and a moment of silence on Tuesday to memorialize and mark the passing of 500,000 Americans to the coronavirus pandemic.

With lit candles in hand from the steps of Congress, the lawmakers stood as a sole voice sang Take My Hand, Precious Lord and the night set in above them.

When the song finished, the masked bipartisan leaders of the two chambers of Congress led the other lawmakers in bowing their heads and holding a moment in silence for those who have died to COVID-19.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., performed the sign of the cross while standing beside Congressional leaders including Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The sole voice then rose up again in song, singing God Bless America, and was joined by the American lawmakers.

The ceremony came a day after the U.S. death toll to the pandemic that began late in 2019 surpassed the grim 500,000-milestone. By late Tuesday, it stood at 502,517, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

"Over 500,000 Americans have died during the pandemic. I took part in a candlelight vigil tonight to honor and remember them," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said via Twitter. "To everyone who has lost someone, my heart goes out to you in this tragic time."

President Joe Biden had also held a moment of silence for the lives lost on Monday and ordered flags at the White House to fly at half-staff to mark the "grim, heartbreaking" milestone.

The candlelit vigil on Tuesday was held as Congress debates a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday that the House is preparing to pass the American Rescue Plan this week.

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