President Donald Trump on Thursday marked the "sad milestone" of 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States, after his earlier silence prompted criticism that he was failing in his duty to console victims and their loved ones.
"We have just reached a very sad milestone with the coronavirus pandemic deaths reaching 100,000," Trump posted on Twitter, about 16 hours after the death toll passed the threshold according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
"To all of the families & friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!"
The US death toll, from 1.7 million confirmed infections, is by far the highest of any nation, and critics have accused the president of an inadequate early response to the pandemic.
Trump has repeatedly said any death from COVID-19 is tragic.
But he has been chided for appearing to concern himself more with the country digging out from economic devastation than consoling tens of thousands of American families shattered by the loss of loved ones.
He has also been criticized for repeatedly offering unduly optimistic predictions about the final death count, only to be quickly contradicted each time by the relentlessly rising toll.
On Wednesday, as many American politicians including the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden were sharing their condolences and grief over the grim milestone, Trump was tweeting repeatedly about other issues.
He posted more than 40 times on social media -- on a variety of subjects but not about COVID-19 victims -- between Wednesday evening and his Thursday morning tweet that acknowledged the 100,000 dead.
Democrats savaged the president for appearing insensitive to the magnitude of the moment.
"The day the United States hit 100,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic Trump shares a message calling himself 'the greatest President in our history.' His vanity is nauseating," congressman Don Beyer tweeted.
Former vice president Biden, who will challenge Trump for the White House in November, swiftly addressed the milestone by releasing a video message to survivors.
"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 said Wednesday.
"Take some solace from the fact that we all grieve with you."
© 2020 AFP