Published on: Monday, May 31, 2021

A nation slowly emerging from social distancing measures imposed by the coronavirus pandemic honored generations of U.S. veterans killed in the line of duty on a Memorial Day observed without the severe pandemic restrictions that affected the day of tribute just a year ago (article available here).

At Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, President Joe Biden delivered a solemn speech honoring the 1 million Americans killed in service of the nation — and challenged that nation to carry on that fight by defending its democracy.

This year’s remembrances were as painful, if less restrictive, as those held on Memorial Day 2020, when Americans settled for small processions and online tributes instead of parades. The pandemic last year forced communities to honor the nation’s military dead with modest, more subdued ceremonies that also remembered those lost to the coronavirus.

Monday’s commemorations were held as new data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that new cases of COVID-19 are plunging and that more than 40% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. With the declines, most states have been reducing or dropping most social distancing restrictions.

As of Saturday, the rolling seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. had dropped to 18,913, according to the CDC — the first time that average had dipped below 20,000 a day since March 2020.