UPDATED: Biden tests positive for COVID and exhibits minor symptoms, according to the White House


UPDATED: Biden tests positive for COVID and exhibits minor symptoms, according to the White House
On July 17, after attending Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., President Biden left the building.
Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP

According to a Thursday statement from the White House, President Biden has tested positive for COVID-19.

He has received two booster shots, is fully immunized, and is "experiencing very minimal symptoms," according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. She reported that he had started taking Paxlovid, a common course of treatment for those who are thought to be more susceptible to COVID's side effects, such as those who are over 50.

In a statement, Jean-Pierre stated that Biden "will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time." 

The most recent COVID test Biden took was on Tuesday, and the results were negative, according to the statement.

Biden's doctor, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, wrote in a letter that the vice president had a runny nose, tiredness, and "an occasional dry cough, which started yesterday evening."

"The president is fully vaccinated and twice-boosted, so I anticipate that he will respond favorably, as most maximally protected patients do," the letter said. "Early use of Paxlovid, in this case, provides additional protection against severe disease."

First lady Jill Biden tested negative Thursday morning in Detroit, her spokesman Michael LaRosa told NPR's, Tamara Keith. She will keep her full schedule in Michigan and Georgia on Thursday, he added.

"She will continue following CDC guidance with masking and distancing," LaRosa said in an emailed statement.

The president and first lady both had planned to travel to Wilmington, Delaware, later on, Thursday.

Although COVID-19 poses a decreased risk for serious illness or hospitalization thanks to immunizations, booster doses, and antivirals, the virus still poses a higher danger to elderly individuals. Biden is the oldest president in American history at 79 years old. He received a fourth dose of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine one day after it was approved for use in adults over 50 in March. He is fully immunized and has had two booster doses.

"Per standard protocol for any positive case at the White House, the White House Medical Unit will inform all close contacts of the President during the day today, including any Members of Congress and any members of the press who interacted with the President during yesterday's travel" to Somerset, Mass., the statement said.

Biden had generally avoided the cameras since returning from a five-day trip to the Middle East, with the exception of the Massachusetts engagement.

Biden would have the choice to temporarily delegate presidential authority to Vice President Harris under the 25th Amendment if his health were to significantly worsen. When Biden underwent anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy as part of a physical in November, Harris filled in as president for a little over an hour. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush also used the 25th Amendment to grant colonoscopies within limited time periods.

Biden's diagnosis occurs as the United States experienced yet another COVID wave, this one brought on by the BA.5 variant.

A cautious approach to COVID had been a hallmark of the Biden administration throughout his first year in office. Instead of congregating for in-person meetings, Biden avoided large indoor gatherings, the White House mandated masks, and staffers frequently held Zoom talks from behind closed doors in their offices.

Over the course of 2022, many of these protections started to erode. The government reinstituted public tours and crammed ceremonial events into the East Room.

But behind closed doors, the administration kept enforcing more stringent COVID guidelines surrounding the president. Before meetings with Biden, staff members are tested, and during meetings, they continue to wear masks and keep a six-foot distance from him.

Nevertheless, in the week preceding Biden's positive test, he had stayed for lengthy discussions, posed for photos, and gave hugs at the Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn of the White House. Biden also shook hands with leaders in Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia and, controversially, exchanged fist bumps.

Throughout the majority of the meetings and other engagements on the four-day trip, Biden wore no mask.

Biden has escaped the virus up until now, but during the previous two years, a number of other important members of the administration have tested positive for COVID-19, including Harris, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and former press secretary Jen Psaki.

No senior White House officials have disclosed any severe symptoms.

Biden is the most recent member of the government to contract COVID-19

Since the pandemic started, COVID-19 has been contracted by a number of government leaders. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has had vaccinations and booster shots, said in January that he had tested positive for the virus.

Prior to the development of vaccinations, former President Donald Trump, then 74, contracted COVID-19 in October 2020. Trump, White House representatives, and medical professionals who spoke to the press about Trump's illness all gave public reassurance about his health, but the infection was so dangerous that Trump had to be admitted for a weekend at Walter Reed Hospital.

While in the hospital, Trump was given remdesivir and the steroid dexomethasone, but many specifics regarding his illness were murky due to inconsistencies in the statements provided by his advisers and his medical staff. About a week after receiving his diagnosis, which occurred at a crucial juncture in the presidential election campaign, he started holding public appearances again.

The Trump administration often made fun of masking and other safety procedures and did not take COVID-19 safeguards seriously. Trump had presided over a crowded event presenting now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett as his third choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy just before he revealed he had tested positive. A dozen or more attendees at the event afterward developed COVID infections.

The Biden White House, in contrast, implemented stringent coronavirus safety guidelines and adhered to them for a much longer period of time than most Americans did. Following instances in the US fell sharply after the omicron variant rise in March 2022, Biden only started masking in public and restricting indoor connections.

The White House doctor wrote in a memo that the president had been tested for COVID three times that week and had come back negative when Biden complained of a noticeably hoarse throat and congestion in the early days of December.

Biden has staked his presidential campaign on the promise of containing the pandemic through a forceful, well-coordinated federal response.

The relatively quick provision of vaccines and the trillions of dollars in COVID relief intended to enhance testing supplies and protect schools for a return to more widespread in-person learning were reflected in polls conducted in the early months of Biden's presidency. But as the pandemic persisted for a while, his popularity started to decline.

Following the omicron variant, the administration started talking more about COVID as a long-term challenge to live with, similar to seasonal flu waves, rather than a crisis requiring constant attention, as public opinion polls revealed many Americans were weary from nearly two years of COVID safety protocols.

Since the start of his presidential campaign, Biden has deflected inquiries regarding his age and health. In light of Biden's struggles with the economy, COVID variations that have returned, and issues in foreign policy, public opinion polls have revealed that Americans are concerned about his health.

The Biden administration now has to deal with the symbolism of a president who has received three vaccinations yet is nonetheless afflicted by a sickness that has persisted during his term in office.

Chima Ugo is a patriotic Nigerian, a journalist, blogger and singer who is so much interested in the internet, journalism, and blogging and have been for half a decade.