Why Are Flags Half-Staff Today, April 20? See the State Proclamations

Half-Staff Flags

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Why are flags half-staff today, Monday, April 20? Although there are no national half-staff proclamations from President Donald Trump, some states have had proclamations in place from sunrise to sunset. These are honoring people who have served their state or country and are no longer with us, including people who have died from the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s a look at the people being honored today by lowered flags across the country.


States Are Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Those No Longer with Us

In Arizona, flags on state buildings are flying half staff in honor of former Arizona Gov. Jane Hull, who died at the age of 84. Flags will fly half staff until sunset on the day of interment. Jane Hull died hours after her husband of 66 years, Terry Hull, died at the age of 85, AZ Central reported. Their family only said they died of natural causes at their home.

In California, San Diego city buildings’ flags are flying at half staff in solidarity with New York to remember those whose lives have been lost to COVID-19. Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement: “The City of San Diego is flying flags at half-staff in tribute to every American, Californian and San Diegan who has fallen to COVID-19 and in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in hard-hit places like New York. The sudden passing of so many fellow Americans from a pandemic disease is unparalleled in modern history. It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the continued loss of life and I ask that you join me by keeping the departed in your thoughts and prayers.”

In Connecticut, state and U.S. flags are half staff indefinitely in recognition of all those whose lives were lost or affected by COVID-19. Gov. Ned Lamont said: “This global pandemic is impacting the lives of so many families, friends, and loved ones in Connecticut, and we mourn for those who have been impacted. This is an incredibly trying time and a tragic period in our state’s history. I continue to urge every resident of Connecticut to stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible, because not only may your life depend on it, but it could also impact the lives of others.”

As of April 18, 16,809 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus and 1,036 people have died.

Illinois has joined the states who are lowering their flags for the victims of COVID-19. Flags are being flown at half-staff in remembrance of “All who have perished from COVID-19 in the Land of Lincoln,” reads Gov. JB Pritzker’s statement. As of early April 18, Illinois had 27,575 cases and 1,134 deaths.

In Kentucky, state flags at state buildings are lowered to half-staff April 14 through April 20 in memory of the more than 100 people from Kentucky who have died due to COVID-19. Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement: “I am ordering that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff beginning tomorrow morning and remaining that way until we get through this. Each Kentuckian lost to the coronavirus is someone’s mother or father; someone’s child; someone’s significant other – someone loved by their family and friends. Paying tribute in this fashion is just one more way we, as a commonwealth, can collectively mourn the loss of these members of our community.”

Individuals and local businesses are also encouraged to fly their flags at half-staff.

In Kentucky as of April 18, 2,522 people have been diagnosed and 137 people died.

In Michigan, state and U.S. flags are flying half staff indefinitely, according to a proclamation that went into place on April 10. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had devastating impacts on families across our state. I’m directing flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of those we have lost to this awful virus. The flags lowered will serve to remind us all that every life lost is a story and legacy of a loved one gone too soon. As we continue on, we will carry their memories. My deepest condolences to the families of those whose lives were tragically cut short by COVID-19.”

Residents, local businesses, and others are encouraged to fly their flags at half-staff too.

In Michigan, there have been 30,023 confirmed cases as of April 18 and 2,227 deaths. Michigan has the fourth-highest number of cases out of all the states in the country.

In New Jersey, all state flags and U.S. flags are being flown at half-staff indefinitely in memory of the people of New Jersey who have lost their lives to the coronavirus outbreak. The proclamation was placed by Gov. Philip D. Murphy on April 3 and is still ongoing. As of April 18, New Jersey had 78,467 cases and 3,840 deaths.

The proclamation for New Jersey reads, in part:

WHEREAS, these individuals were family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors, and include healthcare workers, first responders, and others who gave their lives working bravely and tirelessly on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS, each and every life lost to COVID-19 is a profound tragedy for us all; and

WHEREAS, we sadly know that even despite our aggressive efforts, the number of lives lost will continue to rise dramatically in the coming weeks and months, both here in New Jersey, throughout the United States, and around the world; and

WHEREAS, the prohibition of social gatherings, which is necessary to prevent further spread of the virus and loss of life, prevents funerals from going forward in the manner that they would under normal circumstances; and

WHEREAS, as a result, we cannot properly mourn the loss of individuals who pass away during this time, whether from COVID-19 or other causes, and say the goodbye that each and every one of them deserves; and

WHEREAS, while nothing can fully make up for this cruel reality, lowering the flags to half-staff can symbolize our State’s collective grief and cause us all to remember the awful human toll that this pandemic has inflicted upon this State, our nation, and the world; and

WHEREAS, it is with great sorrow that we mourn the passing of all those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and those who may lose their lives in the future, and extend our deepest sympathy to their families, friends, colleagues, and communities; and

WHEREAS, it is appropriate for us all to keep in our thoughts and prayers all of those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and are suffering;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, PHILIP D. MURPHY, Governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT:

1. The flag of the United States of America and the flag of New Jersey shall be flown at half-staff at all State departments, offices, agencies, and instrumentalities indefinitely, starting on Friday, April 3, 2020, in recognition and mourning of all those who have lost their lives and have been affected by COVID-19.

In New York, all flags on state government buildings will fly at half-staff indefinitely while the state is “on pause” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on April 8. As of April 18, New York had 233,951 cases and 17,323 deaths. On April 8, Cuomo directed that the state remain “on pause” for at least two more weeks through April 29.

New York’s website reads: “Flags on state government buildings have been directed to be flown at half-staff in honor of those we have lost to COVID-19 and will remain lowered while New York is on PAUSE.”

Cuomo said in a statement: “Every number is a face and we have lost so many people, many of the front-line workers putting themselves at risk to do the essential functions that we all need for society to go on. In honor of those we have lost to the virus, I am directing all flags to be flown at half-mast. And I continue to urge all New Yorkers to be responsible, adhere to all social distancing protocols and remember the life you are risking may not be your own.”

In Ohio, flags at Cuyahoga County buildings are flying half-staff from April 15 to an undetermined future date to honor those who died from COVID-19.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered that all commonwealth flags on commonwealth facilities, public buildings, and public grounds fly at half staff indefinitely in honor of the victims of the 2019 novel coronavirus. The proclamation was put into place on April 8.

In a statement, Wolf said: “Too many Pennsylvanians have lost their lives to COVID-19, and, unfortunately, many more will die. Already we have lost friends, parents, grandparents, and siblings. We have lost first responders. We have lost community members. Each of these Pennsylvanians is irreplaceable. Each deserves to be honored individually for their contributions to our commonwealth, but this cruel disease will not give us a respite to mourn. This virus prevents us from honoring the dead at traditional gatherings. We cannot have funerals, wakes, or sit shiva. I hope this flag lowering provides some solace to the grieving families and friends. And, I hope it serves as a reminder of the reason for the sacrifices Pennsylvanians are making to help their community survive this crisis.”

All residents of Pennsylvania are invited to lower their flags to half staff also. As of April 18, 29,866 cases of coronavirus were recorded in the state, along with 756 deaths.

Flags at Columbia, South Carolina’s city buildings are also flying half-staff in memory of COVID-19 victims, from April 15 to an undetermined date.

In South Dakota, flags are flying half staff on April 20 in honor of State Representative Bob Glanzer, who served in the state House since 2017. Gov. Kristi Noem said in a statement: “I was very sorry to hear of Bob Glanzer’s passing. Bob was a man of true integrity and someone I greatly respected. He epitomized what it means to be a true statesman and worked tirelessly for the people of Beadle and Kingsbury counties as well as for our entire state. Bryon and I will miss him dearly, and we extend our deepest sympathies to Penny and his entire family.”

KOTVA reported that Glanzer died on April 3 about two weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. He had been transferred to a hospital in Sioux Falls last week after he hadn’t been responding to treatment.

In Washington, D.C., flags are flying half-staff to honor COVID-19 victims, Washington Times reported. Flags are also flying half-staff in memory of two police officers who died from non-coronavirus causes. Sgt. Mark Eckenrode and Sgt. Donna Allen died while on the job. Eckenrode suffered a medical emergency while on the line of duty, WJLA reported. Allen also died from a medical emergency.


People Who Were Honored This Weekend

Here’s a look at the people whose memories were honored with flag half-staff proclamations this past weekend.

In Tennessee, flags were flying half staff in Hendersonville through April 18 in memory of Police Lt. James R. Lawson, Jr. He died Easter morning and leaves behind a wife of 36 years, three children, two grandchildren, and other beloved family, Tennessean reported. He had served with the police department for 32 years before retiring. Hendersonville Standard reported that Lawson died of complications from COVID-19 after first not being able to catch his breath while coughing. An online fundraiser for his family is here.

In South Carolina, flags on state buildings will fly at half staff on April 18 from sunrise to sunset in memory of Charleston County Deputy Jeremy C. Ladue, Fox Carolina reported. Ladue died in a car crash on April 13 while he was on duty. The other driver also died. Ladue was 29 and his survived by his parents and sister. A memorial fund is here.

In Illinois, flags were flying half-staff in Illinois April 17 through sunset April 19 in memory of Hampton Police Chief Terry Engle, who died in a car crash on April 11, WQAD reported. He was responding to a 911 call.

In Indiana, flags in Vigo County will fly half staff in honor of firefighter John Schoffstall, who died from COVID-19 complications, TribStar reported. His 11 a.m. Saturday memorial was streamed on the WTWO website and Facebook page.


Flag Half-Staff Traditions

It’s customary to only display the American flag from sunrise to sunset, unless the flag is well illuminated overnight. In those cases, the flag might be displayed 24 hours a day. A number of holidays call for the U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff every year. In addition, the President of the United States may order a proclamation for the flags to fly half-staff when someone of prominence dies or when there is a national tragedy. State governors may also call for national flags to be flown at half-staff in their state when a present or former government official passes away.

If you’re wondering about the term half-mast vs. half-staff, in the United States half-mast refers to flags being lowered on a ship, while half-staff refers to a pole on a building. However, outside the United States, the more commonly used term is actually half-mast. The terms tend to be used interchangeably in common vernacular.

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