US President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and has “very mild symptoms”, the White House said, as new variants of the highly contagious virus challenge efforts to return to normal after two and a half years of pandemic disruption.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden started taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug designed to reduce the severity of the disease. He was self-isolating at the White House and “continued to fully discharge all his duties,” she said.
Biden’s physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, said in a letter that Biden had a runny nose and “fatigue, with an occasional dry cough, which began last night.”
“Friends, I’m doing great. Thank you for your concern,” Biden tweeted. He also noted that he was “looking after!”
Friends, I’m doing very well. Thank you for your concern. I just called Senator Casey, Congressman Cartwright, and Mayor Cognetti (and my Scranton cousins!) to express my regrets for missing our event today.
Keep busy! pic.twitter.com/uf7AsOg571
Biden, 79, is fully vaccinated, having received two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shortly before taking office, a first booster in September and an additional dose on March 30.
Jean-Pierre described the president’s symptoms as “very mild” and said Biden had been in contact with White House staffers by phone and would participate in his scheduled meetings “by phone and Zoom from residence.”
Canceled crime prevention trip
The White House took steps to show the president was busy working despite his diagnosis, with Biden tweeting a photo of himself making calls from the White House Treaty Room.
The president spoke by phone with lawmakers in Pennsylvania to apologize for having to cancel his planned trip to the town of Wilkes-Barre on Thursday to promote his crime prevention plans. Biden also called South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn to wish him a happy birthday and congratulate him on receiving an award from the NAACP.
O’Connor wrote in his letter about the president’s treatment plan, “I anticipate he will respond favorably ‘to Paxlovid’ as most maximally shielded patients do.”
When given within five days of the onset of symptoms, Paxlovid, produced by drugmaker Pfizer, has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by around 90% in the most susceptible patients. to contract a serious illness.
Jean-Pierre said Biden last tested negative on Tuesday and would remain in self-isolation until he tested negative again.
First Lady Jill Biden, speaking to reporters as she arrived for a school visit to Detroit, said she had just hung up the phone with her husband.
“He’s fine,” she said. “He feels good.”
The first lady, who wore a mask, said she tested negative earlier today. She will keep her full schedule in Michigan and Georgia on Thursday, although she will follow guidance on masking and distancing from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Michael LaRosa, her spokesman.
Traveled to the Middle East last week
The president has spent much of the past week in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
White House officials told reporters that Biden planned to minimize contact during the trip, but as soon as he left Air Force One on July 13, the president threw punches, handshakes and even been seen in the occasional embrace. The CDC says symptoms can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
Biden had a minimal public schedule after returning from Saudi Arabia late Saturday night, attending church the next day and helping to welcome Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska to the White House on Tuesday. The president traveled to Massachusetts on Wednesday to promote efforts to combat climate change.
So far, Biden’s ability to avoid the virus seemed to defy the odds, even with testing procedures in place for those expected to be in close contact with him.
Previous waves of the virus have swept through Washington’s political class, infecting Vice President Kamala Harris, Cabinet members, White House staffers and lawmakers. Biden has increasingly stepped up his travel schedule and resumed holding large indoor events where not everyone is tested.
A White House official said Harris tested negative for COVID-19. She was last with the president on Tuesday and spoke to him on the phone Thursday morning. Harris planned to remain masked under the direction of the White House medical team.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hopes Biden’s positive test for the virus will inspire more Americans to get vaccinated and boosted because “none of us are immune to it, including the President of the United States, and we really have to be careful.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell took to Twitter to wish the president “a speedy recovery.”