Joe Biden's Inaugural Committee Will Host National Memorial to ‘Honor the Lives Lost to COVID-19’

The inaugural committee for President-elect Joe Biden will host a national memorial to remember those lost to the novel coronavirus next month, just one day before the former Vice President's inauguration.

A memorial held Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m. ET will include a lighting ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and the ringing of church bells, according to a statement put out by the committee on Thursday.

"On January 19, we will host a memorial to honor those who have died, with the first-ever lighting around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool," the statement reads.

The inaugural committee added that it is asking cities and towns across the country to join the memorial by "illuminating buildings and ringing church bells at 5:30 p.m. ET in a national moment of unity and remembrance."

On Wednesday, Biden criticized the Trump administration's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its slow rollout of the novel coronavirus vaccines.

In remarks delivered from Wilmington, Delaware and livestreamed online, Biden laid out his own plan to combat the virus in his first 100 days in office.

That plan will include invoking the Defense Production Act to boost production of materials needed to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, and asking the American people to wear face masks for the first 100 days he's in office.

Organizers have said that Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration will be 75-80 percent virtual, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, cases of which are spiking across the country.

If the virus is under control and vaccines are widespread by the summer, officials have suggested the incoming administration might hold a large-scale celebration on the Fourth of July.

In a statement sent to the press Thursday, the inaugural committee's communications director, Pill Tobar, said the inauguration "represents the beginning of a new national journey," albeit one set against a grim backdrop.

"However, in the midst of a pandemic — when so many Americans are grieving the loss of family, friends, and neighbors — it is important that we honor those who have died, reflect on what has been one of the more challenging periods in the nation's history, and renew our commitment to coming together to end the pandemic and rebuild our nation," Tobar said, as quoted by Axios.

More than 344,000 American deaths have been attributed to the novel coronavirus as of Thursday, according to a New York Times tracker.

Both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have received their first doses of coronavirus vaccines.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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