American flag half staff
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Why Flags Should Fly at Half Staff. Forever.

Flags have been flying at half staff since yesterday, Friday, May 22, 2020; and as that usually happens to honor someone who died, I have been asked why. I simply figured that they were flying at half staff for the duration of the Memorial Day weekend in honor of all of the brave men and women who lost their lives while fighting for our country, its freedoms, and its ideals.

Why Flags Should Fly at Half Staff. Forever.

American flag half staff
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

The reason as to why flags are flying at half staff in the United States did not take me long to find after I started my search — and it was found at the official Twitter account of Donald J. Trump, who is the current president of the United States.

“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.”

The responses I received when I conveyed my finding to others ranged from “really?!?” to “seriously?!?”


I cannot say that I disagree with those responses of surprise. That we are actually honoring the citizens of the United States who died as a result of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic is an insult for two reasons:

  • Observed every year on the last Monday of the month of May, the Memorial Day holiday was specifically created to honor the men and women who died while serving in the branches of the military of the United States. Having those heroes share this holiday with others potentially devalues its main purpose.
  • Why should the flag fly at half staff specially for citizens of the United States who died as a result of contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus? Did the flags fly at half staff for the thousands of citizens of the United States who died this year as a result of:
    • Influenza?
    • Cancer?
    • Vehicular accidents?
    • Murder?
    • Starvation?
    • Natural causes?


To be fair, Donald Trump did post at his Twitter account that 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.”

Still, I believe that the Memorial Day weekend should honor the aforementioned true heroes in our country…

…but if we are to honor citizens of the United States who died as a result of contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, then we should honor all citizens of the United States who die every day for a plethora of reasons: have flags fly at half staff indefinitely and forever — or do not fly them at half staff at all. Why is death as a result of contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus considered to be a higher priority, more special, or more important than the death of anyone else as a result of any of the other countless reasons and causes?

On a personal note, today, Saturday, May 23, 2020 is the anniversary of the death of my mother. As far as I am concerned, if we can lower the flag to half staff for people who died from 2019 Novel Coronavirus, then perhaps I will consider the flags that are flying at half staff around the United States are in honor of my mother.

Happy Memorial Day.

This article is the latest in a series pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — which is also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV or SARS-CoV-2 or HCoV-19 or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 — pandemic in an effort to get the facts out with information derived from reliable sources…

…as well as attempt to maintain a reasoned and sensible ongoing discussion towards how to resolve this pandemic.

Other articles at The Gate which pertain to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus include:

All photographs ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

  1. May your mother’s neshama have an aliya, or, as I would have said when I was in the UK, I wish you a long life.

  2. I agree that this diminishes the spirit of the holiday and the men and women we should be honoring. I’ll add an observation that President Trump has taken a lot of criticism, rightly, for his inability to express any empathy for victims and families the virus has left in its wake. Asking members of the military to lower the flag is the easy answer to that critique. It certainly avoids the discomfort he would bear by standing on a podium and shedding fake tears or leading an uncomfortable minute of silence – two alternatives that would ruin his image more than wearing a mask in front of the press.

  3. I agree it’s not really best to lower flags for COVID-19 victims largely for the same reasons you set forth, Brian.

    Similarly I’ve not been a fan of some articles and social media posts along the lines of “More Americans have died now of COVID-19 than [insert some war/set of wars, or 9/11, or something else].” Such comparisons are pointless in my mind. I understand the human mind’s affinity for making comparisons, but the approaches we take to handle the pandemic should be independent of some arbitrary point of reference. That isn’t to diminish the significance of the virus or the victims. But we need to be rational and logical in addressing this situation.

  4. Agreed. In the scheme of things, very few have died of Covid-19. Any death is heartbreaking for the loved ones of those lost. But over 150,000 humans die every day. Singling out those who died of this one virus as special is insane.

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