President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday morning after experiencing “very mild symptoms,” according to the White House.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president has begun taking the antiviral drug Paxlovid and is now isolating at the White House residence. He is continuing to carry out all of his duties, but will remain in isolation until he tests negative.
“He is fully vaccinated and twice boosted, and experiencing very mild symptoms,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement Thursday. “He has been in contact with members of the White House staff by phone this morning, and will participate in his planned meetings at the White House this morning via phone and Zoom from the residence.”
In a copy of a White House memo provided to Washington Post reporter Matt Viser, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the physician to the president, explained that Biden’s symptoms consist of a runny nose, fatigue and a dry cough. The president began experiencing those symptoms Wednesday evening.
The White House Medical Unit is now informing all those who were in contact with the president during the day Thursday, including members of Congress and reporters “who interacted with the president during yesterday’s travel,” according to Jean-Pierre.
President Biden, 79, last tested negative on Tuesday. At noon, he sent out a tweet with a photo of him while working at the White House and a message that he was “doing great.”
Biden also released a video on Twitter, produced with the help of masked, socially distanced aides, according to the White House.
“I really appreciate your inquiries and concerns. But I’m doing well, getting a lot of work done,” the president said. “Thanks for your concern, and keep the faith. It’s gonna be okay.”
An update from me: pic.twitter.com/L2oCR0uUTu
— President Biden (@POTUS) July 21, 2022
COVID-19 cases have been increasing across the country again thanks to the BA.5 variant. In New York City alone, according to the city’s Department of Health, the variant has spiked the 7-day positivity rate to 14.5% as of July 21, with a daily average of more than 4,000 cases being diagnosed over the past week.
Vaccinations, boosters and antiviral drugs like Paxlovid have helped reduced the severity of infections, bringing down hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 to far lower levels than at other, more dangerous points of the pandemic between 2020 and 2021.
Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, became ill from COVID-19 in October 2020, at a time before vaccines and antiviral medications effective against COVID-19 were available. He was administered an antibody treatment, and wound up being hospitalized for several days at Walter Reed Medical Center.
But having taken Paxlovid within five days of the onset of symptoms, Biden stands a good chance at avoiding a similar fate. The Associated Press reported that the drug, produced by Pfizer, has brought about a 90% reduction in hospitalization and deaths among patients most likely to experience a severe infection.
Dr. O’Connor wrote in his White House memo that he expects the twice-vaccinated, twice-boosted president to respond well to treatment.
This is a developing story; check with amNY.com later for further updates.