President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday morning and is experiencing mild symptoms after returning from a trip to Massachusetts. The White House said he will continue to work in isolation.
At 79, Biden is at high risk for severe illness despite having two vaccinations and both recommended boosters. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters it is the first time the president has tested positive.
She added that Biden is now taking Paxlovid, which is an antiviral therapy recommended by his personal physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor. It was O’Connor who said the president began experiencing a runny nose, occasional dry cough, and fatigue Wednesday evening.
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said the symptoms set in Wednesday evening as he tried to sleep. Thursday morning’s routine test then gave the positive result.
The president tweeted a video Thursday afternoon of him telling the nation that he appreciates the inquiries and concerns but he is “doing well.”
Biden just returned from an engagement Wednesday where he met and shook hands — maskless — with several Democratic leaders and supporters.
He was in Massachusetts at the site of an old coal plant to announce executive actions on climate change. The White House said Biden’s last negative coronavirus test was Tuesday.
He had just returned from the Middle East, and on Tuesday he hosted Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at the White House.
The administration said out of “an abundance of transparency” there will be a daily media update on Biden’s condition. Vice President Kamala Harris, according to the White House, was last with Biden on Tuesday and has tested negative.
A planned trip for Harris to Charlotte, N.C., proceeded on schedule.
First Lady Jill Biden tested negative on Thursday in Detroit and is keeping her schedule, though now masking and social distancing. She told reporters that her husband is “doing fine.”
Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, President Biden will self-isolate for at least five days. Jean-Pierre said he is in communication with White House staffers by phone and Zoom.
It is revealing that the president, fully vaccinated and boosted, may still contract COVID-19. And while the White House continually stresses that his symptoms are mild, being 79-years-old and having coronavirus is unsettling for anyone, including the leader of the free world.