WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Thursday called the world-leading 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States "a very sad milestone."
Early in the year, Trump often downplayed the coronavirus threat, saying the number of cases in the U.S. would quickly dwindle to none. But he acknowledged the death toll - a figure larger than the number of U.S. deaths in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined -- in a Twitter comment.
"To all of the families & friends of those who have passed," he said, "I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!"
On Wednesday, former vice president Joe Biden said in a message posted on Twitter "There are moments in our history so grim, so heart-rending, that they're forever fixed in each of our hearts as shared grief. Today is one of those moments." Biden, Trump's opponent in the November election, ended the message with "To those hurting, I'm so sorry for your loss. The nation grieves with you."
With the U.S. passing the 100,000 marker in less than four months, a bipartisan group of senators renewed their call for a moment of silence to be held Monday to honor the dead.
"The nation must mark this dark moment with unity and clarity," said Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat. "At this time of almost unimaginable pain, it is essential that we pause to honor every life lost, and that we grieve together."
"The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our nation," said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. "Far too many families have seen their loved ones suffer. Due to strict isolation measures, most who have lost someone to the disease have been robbed of their final farewell at the hospital. Many have also been unable to have proper memorials to honor the people they have lost."
A separate proposal in the House of Representatives calls for a daily moment of silence whenever the House is in session, as well as a national day of mourning after the pandemic ends and the establishment of a national memorial for the victims.
The United States had seen some improvement in its daily death tolls, but that progress took a sharp step back Wednesday with 1,400 new deaths reported.
Worldwide, more than 356,000 people have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics. There are about 5.7 million confirmed cases, with almost 30% in the United States.
South Korea reported 79 new cases Thursday as it continues to work to prevent a more widespread resurgence of the virus. With most of the new cases located in the Seoul area, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo urged people to avoid unnecessary gatherings and for companies to keep sick workers at home.
There is also concern in many countries in Latin America, where the World Food Program says the pandemic could leave 14 million people hungry.
"We are entering a very complicated stage," said Miguel Barreto, the WFP's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean. "It is what we are calling a hunger pandemic."
Brazil has been the hardest hit in the region, with its 411,000 cases, trailing only the United States. Peru has also seen a sharp rise in cases, including reporting Wednesday a record daily increase of 6,154 new cases.
India reported a similar jump Thursday with 6,566 new cases, a record for the country that now ranks 10th in the world in confirmed cases.