More than 600,000 Americans Have Died from COVID-19. Congress Pauses to Remember the Lives Lost.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Members of Congress held a moment of silence on Monday to mark a tragic milestone: more than 600,000 American lives lost to COVID-19.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Rep. Joyce Beatty, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, were among the lawmakers who participated on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The somber moment was followed by Technical Sgt. Matthew Scollin from the Air Force Band singing “God Bless America” 

“It is particularly jarring at this moment – a moment of recovery, optimism, and hope – to remember the enormity of lives lost over the past 15 months,” said Rep. Schumer in remarks made yesterday on the Senate floor. “Not only that, we face the grim reality that these recent fatalities happened while Americans were on the verge of getting the vaccine. Some had their appointment just days away.”

He noted “as our fellow Americans are taking their masks off, going back to work, seeing family and friends, and returning—as they should—to life, let us remember those who cannot. Let us hold them, in our hearts, a little while longer.”

Communities of color have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus. 

In May, the Black Women’s Health Imperative announced that it had received a $400,000 grant from The Rockefeller Foundation to improve vaccination rates among Black women and communities of color. The grant is part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s $20 million Equity-First Vaccination Initiative, which supports hyper-local, community-led programs to improve vaccine access and support educational outreach in five cities. 

Information from the initiative will help inform strategies across the country to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations in communities of color, contributing to a collective, national goal of ensuring at least 70 million people of color will be fully vaccinated by July 2021.

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“Throughout the pandemic, the disparities in health, economic, and social outcomes have been stark for Black women and their families,” said Linda Goler Blount, President and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative in a statement. “This grant will help us equip Black women with science-based information so that they’re empowered to educate their families, friends, and communities about the COVID-19 vaccines.”

“The heavy toll of COVID-19 on Black America is sharpened for Black women, who bear the brunt of health, economic, and social disparities,” said Greg Johnson, Managing Director for the Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. “The Rockefeller Foundation is thrilled to be supporting Black Women’s Health Imperative so that Black women and their families feel confident about why and how to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The organization will form strategic partnerships with the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc. and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women to launch COVID-19 vaccine and equity initiatives in several cities and states. They include: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Newark and Oakland, California.

Community organizations, the Southern Christian Leadership Global Policy Initiative, and R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions, as well as the New Jersey Department of Health will support. Meanwhile, professional athletes with the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) will also collaborate with the organization to support the public health campaign with fans and within their communities by encouraging vaccine education, awareness, and advocating for equitable access.  

The Black Women’s Health Imperative also plans to convene a future COVID-19 Vaccine Awareness & Equity Task Force to provide high-impact advocacy recommendations to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake. The task force will include the leaders of  the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc. and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women policymakers, disparities experts, and community organizations.

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