U.S. President Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 but is only “experiencing very mild symptoms,” the White House announced Thursday.
In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the fully vaccinated and twice boosted Biden, 79, has begun taking the anti-viral drug Paxlovid and is working from the White House residence rather than the Oval Office.
Biden tweeted, “Folks, I'm doing great. Thanks for your concern.” He said he is “keeping busy,” but had called two Pennsylvania lawmakers and the Scranton mayor “to send my regrets for missing our event today” in the northeastern state.
Later, the White House posted a video of him while he was standing outside on a portico as he assured Americans that his symptoms were not severe.
“I really appreciate your inquiries and concerns,” he said. “But I’m doing well, getting a lot of work done. Going to continue to get it done. And in the meantime, thanks for your concern. And keep the faith. It’s going to be okay.”
At a news briefing, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the possibility that Biden will get seriously ill is “dramatically lower” because he is fully vaccinated and twice boosted. He said that officials should know within a few days whether Biden contracted the highly contagious omicron subvariant BA.5 that is racing through the country.
About 100,000 new coronavirus cases are being reported every day in the United States.
While Biden at 79 falls into a high-risk category for becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus, Jha said the protection the president has from having been vaccinated and taken booster shots “dramatically reduce his risk.”
Jean-Pierre said the White House is compiling a list of people Biden came in close contact with in the past few days but at this point does not know how he contracted the coronavirus.
Jean-Pierre said that consistent with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control, Biden “will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time.”
Jha said Biden would not resume contacts with other aides or the public for at least five days, and then only if he tests negative.
Jean-Pierre said, “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.”
First lady Jill Biden tested negative for the coronavirus, the White House said.
She tweeted, “I'm on the road in Detroit today, but I spoke to Joe earlier and he’s feeling fine, just experiencing a few mild symptoms. This morning, I tested negative for COVID-19. I'll continue to follow CDC guidance and wear a mask.”
The president’s physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor from the George Washington University medical school near the White House, said the chief executive’s positive reading was first detected by antigen testing and then confirmed by the more exacting Polymerase Chain Reaction test.
O’Connor said Biden has a runny nose and fatigue, with an occasional dry cough, which started Wednesday evening.
The physician said that since Biden is fully vaccinated and twice boosted, “I anticipate that he will respond favorably, as most maximally protected patients do. Early use of Paxlovid in this case provides additional protection against severe disease.”
The virus in the U.S. has affected millions of people and killed more than one million. Biden has gone to considerable lengths to protect himself against the disease, often, but not always, wearing a face mask.
Former President Donald Trump also contracted the disease and was hospitalized toward the end of his four-year term. Vaccines were not available when Trump was infected.