Why Are Flags Half-Staff Today? Flags Lowered for COVID-19 Victims

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Why are flags half-staff today, Friday, May 22? Flags are flying half-staff across the nation in memory of those we have lost from COVID-19. President Donald Trump initiated a national flags-half staff notice for the next three days. In addition, flags are flying half-staff in some states in memory of others who have been lost.


Flags are Half-Staff in Memory of Those Lost from COVID-19

President Donald Trump has ordered that flags on federal buildings and national monuments will fly half-staff to honor coronavirus victims, CNN reported. Trump made the announcement in a tweet on Thursday evening.

He wrote: “I will be lowering the flags on all Federal Buildings and National Monuments to half-staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the CoronaVirus…. On Monday, the flags will be at half-staff in honor of the men and women in our Military who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice for our Nation.”

Based on the timing of his tweet, flags will be half-staff in honor of COVID-19 victims on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Then on Monday, flags will be half-staff for Memorial Day.

As of early May 22, 1.62 million people have confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and 96,354 have died. The next-highest countries are Russia with 317,554 cases and Brazil with 310,921 cases. In deaths, the next-highest are the UK with 36,042 deaths and Italy with 32,486 deaths.


States Also Have Half-Staff Proclamations 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 May 22, 39,208 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Connecticut and 3,582 people have died.

In Idaho, flags at public facilities are flying half-staff through May 23 in memory of Bonneville County Sheriff’s Deputy Wyatt Maser. Maser was killed in the line of duty on May 18 and had just started working with the Sheriff’s office in April 2019, KIVITV reported. Maser died when he was attempting to take a woman with a machete into custody and another officer accidentally hit him with his car. Maser’s funeral is May 22.

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 May 22, Illinois had 102,686 cases and 4,607 deaths.

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 53,510 confirmed cases as of May 22 and 5,129 deaths.

In New Jersey, all state flags and U.S. flags are being flown at half-staff 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 May 22, New Jersey had 153,441 cases and 10,852 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 May 22, New York had 366,357 cases and 28,885 deaths.

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 North Carolina, state flags are flying half-staff through May 23 at all public facilities in memory of civil rights activist Andrea Harris who passed away on Wednesday after battling a long illness. She helped fight poverty across three rural communities and in 2017 was appointed to serve on the state’s Advisory Council for Historically Underutilized Businesses.

Gov. Roy Cooper said, in part: “Andrea Harris was a trailblazer who never stopped fighting for social and racial equity in our state. When doors were intentionally shut, she broke through for women and minority-owned businesses to succeed, modeled excellence in advocacy and mentored scores of freedom fighters. She left an indelible impact on North Carolina’s business and African American communities, and she will be missed. Kristin and I send our prayers and deepest condolences to her friends and loved ones.”

In Ohio, state and U.S. flags at public buildings in Muskingum County and specific other government buildings are flying half-staff through the day of the memorial service for Annie Glenn. She was known as a champion of those with speech disorders, and she died at the age of 100, The New York Times reported. Annie Glenn was the widow of astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn.

Gov. DeWine said, in part: “This is a very sad day for all Ohioans. Annie Glenn was certainly our most beloved Ohioan.   She represented all that is good about our country. And, it is impossible to imagine John Glenn without Annie, and Annie without John. They grew up together and their life-long love story was inspiring to us all.”

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 May 22, 69,372 cases of coronavirus were recorded in the state, along with 4,920 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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