On Sept. 26, a ceremony in the White House's Rose Garden to announce Amy Coney Barrett as President Trump's Supreme Court nominee was attended by dozens who didn't wear masks or social distance. A week later, a small group of people who've lost loved ones to COVID-19 or survived it themselves gathered not far from the Rose Garden, in the Ellipse park near the White House, with a somber tribute to those who've died. The visual reminder of this tragic year, per the Washington Post: 20,000 empty black folding chairs, each one representing 10 Americans who've succumbed to the disease. (The official death toll is now approaching 210,000.) "These are our grandparents, our parents, our siblings, children, co-workers, and neighbors," reads the website for the first National COVID-19 Remembrance event on Sunday, hosted by singer Dionne Warwick.
"It takes all of us to raise our voices," Warwick—who was once a US ambassador for health who worked on the AIDS crisis—said at the hourlong event, per WTOP. "We know we can't always rely on the folks in charge to hear us unless we say it loudly and clearly." The Washingtonian notes the event was organized by COVID Survivors for Change, a group made up of those who've been sickened by the virus, as well as their family members, and who are now demanding elected officials "do more to develop a national plan for safety and recovery." Sabila Khan, who lost her dad, 76-year-old Shafqat Khan, in April to the illness, tells WTOP the memorial was a "reassuring and lovely gesture," but she notes "it's really hard to come to terms with the fact that my father is part of this running tally." "There is a tsunami of grief in this country right now," she adds. (Read more coronavirus stories.)