Why Are Flags Half-Staff Today, May 1? See the State Proclamations

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Why are flags half-staff today, Friday, May 1? We don’t have any national half-staff proclamations from President Donald Trump, but many states have put proclamations in place from sunrise to sunset. Many of these are in memory of those who died from the coronavirus pandemic, while others honor people who are no longer with us for other reasons. Here’s a look at the people being honored today by lowered flags across the country, in alphabetical order by state.


Here are the State Half-Staff Proclamations for Today

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 early April 30, 26,767 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Connecticut and 2,168 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 30, Illinois had 50,355 cases and 2,215 deaths.

In Indiana, U.S. and state flags are flying half staff in Marion County and Department of Corrections facilities across the state in memory of Women’s Prison Correctional Officer Francine Earls today. Earls died of COVID-19 complications. Earls was only 56 and had been working at the prison since July 2018, Fox 59 reported. Her grandchildren said they are heartbroken she’s gone. Grandson Javon Campbell said they talked every day.

Campbell said: “[COVID-19] ain’t nothing to play with. There’s a lot of people taking it as a joke. You aren’t supposed to do that. If they say stay in the house, stay in the house.”

Also in Indiana, U.S. and state flags are flying at half-staff in Greene and Sullivan County and at Department of Correction facilities in memory of Wabash Valley Correctional Officer Gary Weinke, who also died of COVID-19 complications. Weinke was 67 and had worked at the facility since 2007. His last day at work was March 29. His wife Naomi also works at the same prison, WTHR reported. Colleagues said he was a one-of-a-kind officer who will be missed.

In Massachusetts, flags at soldiers’ home facilities and veteran cemeteries began flying half-staff on April 19 until a date to be determined in respect of veterans and Soldiers’ Home residents who died from COVID-19. The flags will be raised when the governor’s emergency order is concluded for COVID-19.

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 40,399 confirmed cases as of April 30 and 3,670 deaths.

In New Jersey, flags are flying half staff at state facilities in honor of former First Lady of New Jersey Debby Kean. Kean died at the age of 76 at her home. She and Thomas Kean were married for 52 years, NJ.com reported. Her cause of death was not shared.

She was known for advocating for day care centers and helping the developmentally disabled, along with helping those with paralysis, NJ.com reported.

In addition, all state flags and U.S. flags are being flown at half-staff in New Jersey indefinitely in memory of the people 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 early April 30, New Jersey had 116,264 cases and 6,770 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 early April 30, New York had 306,158 cases and 23,474 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 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 early April 30, 45,865 cases of coronavirus were recorded in the state, along with 2,354 deaths.


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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