866 chairs at Independence Hall symbolize Pa.’s 8,660 COVID victims

COVID Survivors for Change set up 866 chairs on Independence Mall in Philadelphia to represent the lives of over 8,660 Pennsylvanians lost to COVID-19. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

COVID Survivors for Change set up 866 chairs on Independence Mall in Philadelphia to represent the lives of over 8,660 Pennsylvanians lost to COVID-19. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Eight hundred and sixty-six white folding chairs now dot the lawn in front of Independence Hall, part of a memorial honoring 8,660 victims of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.

But the art installation and an accompanying “remembrance ceremony,” organized by COVID Survivors for Change, also coincided with another grim milestone. The state recorded 2,219 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday –– the largest one-day increase on record.

The memorial was organized by the nonprofit COVID Survivors for Change. The group’s executive director, Chris Kocher, delivered a speech honoring the fallen and paid tribute to sacrifices of health care and frontline workers.

He also noted the particular health and economic impacts the virus had in places like Philadelphia, where Black and Latino communities saw both higher case counts and unemployment rates than their white counterparts.

“We also come together today resolved to affirm our commitment to take action, to hold our elected leaders accountable, because this pandemic and accompanying economic crisis has disproportionately impacted people of color.”

Following a moment of silence and choir recital, family members of those that succumbed to the coronavirus also spoke. Carol Green, whose father passed away in April from COVID-19, called on the government to do more to stanch the spread of the virus.

“There are far too many stories of families like ours,” she said “Our leaders blatantly let it happen.”

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