Empty chairs outside White House honor 200,000 Americans dead from COVID-19

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Mourners gathered across from the White House as part of the National COVID-19 Remembrance Ceremony, which paid tribute to the more than 200,000 people in the United States who have died from COVID-19.

A sea of 20,000 empty chairs stood on the Ellipse lawn across from the White House on Sunday to honor those lives lost to COVID-19. The chairs represented less than 10% of the actual number of Americans who have died from the virus.

The 20,000 empty chairs on the Ellipse lawn across from the White House represented less than 10% of the actual number of Americans who have died from the virus.
The 20,000 empty chairs on the Ellipse lawn across from the White House represented less than 10% of the actual number of Americans who have died from the virus. (Source: WJLA via CNN)

One of those chairs represented 67-year-old Ramash Quasba, a cricket-loving grandfather who died nearly two weeks before the ceremony hosted by COVID Survivors for Change. His daughters, Naeha and Nisha Quasba, attended the event.

“I’m here today because I don’t want his story to end in those four walls that he died in,” Nisha Quasba said.

The Quasba sisters, who both work in the health field, say they want to push national leaders to do more to prevent further deaths from the virus, including establishing a robust public health response. That isn’t just limited to mask-wearing and contact tracing.

Among those honored at the ceremony was 67-year-old Ramash Quasba, a cricket-loving grandfather who died nearly two weeks earlier. His two daughters attended the event.
Among those honored at the ceremony was 67-year-old Ramash Quasba, a cricket-loving grandfather who died nearly two weeks earlier. His two daughters attended the event. (Source: Quasba Family, WJLA via CNN)

“We live in what’s considered an affluent county – whatever that means – in Maryland, but my dad never got contacted. It’s been six weeks,” Nisha Quasba said.

The remembrance ceremony was planned before President Donald Trump tested positive for the virus himself and received treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center.

The U.S. death toll, which numbered more than 209,000 on Sunday, was a major catalyst.

Pastor William H. Lamar IV, an opening speaker at the event, says national leaders have not invested resources nor modeled what scientists recommend for defeating the virus. He says this has created economic devastation and disproportionate death rates in communities of color.

“I want the president and all with COVID to be well, but I also have to place responsibility upon the president and other leaders who have not taken this seriously,” Lamar said. “There is blood on the hands of those who refuse to do what is necessary to protect human beings.”

At least 332 new coronavirus deaths and 34,491 new cases were reported Sunday in the U.S., according to The New York Times.

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