US President Joe Biden tests positive for COVID

US president releases video saying he is ‘doing well’, has ‘mild symptoms’ and is fully vaccinated with two boosters.

President Joe Biden speaks to people after delivering remarks on climate change
US President Joe Biden had travelled to Massachusetts on Wednesday to give a speech [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19, the White House announced, but the United States president will continue to carry out his duties as he is experiencing “very mild symptoms”.

Biden, 79, who will isolate at the White House, has been in contact with members of staff and will participate in planned meetings, the president’s Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Thursday morning.

“I’m doing well, getting a lot of work done,” Biden said in a video recorded at the White House and shared on social media. “In the meantime, thanks for your concern, and keep the faith – it’s going to be okay.”

The president has begun taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug recommended for those at risk of severe illness. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said this includes those over the age of 65 in the case of COVID-19.

Biden’s COVID-19 diagnosis was confirmed by both antigen and PCR tests, the president’s physician, Dr Kevin O’Connor, said on Thursday in a letter to Jean-Pierre that the White House made public.

The president’s symptoms, which began on Wednesday evening, include a “runny nose” and “fatigue, with an occasional dry cough”, O’Connor wrote, adding that he anticipated Biden “will respond favorably” to treatment.

The White House says it will provide a daily update on Biden’s status, and will inform anyone who has been in close contact with the president.

In a briefing on Thursday afternoon, the White House COVID-19 coordinator said because Biden is fully vaccinated and had two booster shots, “His risk of serious illness is dramatically lower.”

“He’s also getting treated with a very powerful antiviral, and that further reduces his risk of serious illness,” Dr Ashish Jha told reporters at the White House.

Jha said the president is “breathing well” and that his oxygen level is “normal”.

Biden’s previous COVID-19 test was on Tuesday and was negative, the White House said.

Biden will work in isolation until he tests negative, consistent with White House COVID-19 protocol, more stringent than guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Jean-Pierre said.

“At this time we are fully under the impression that this is nothing more than someone who might be experiencing a common cold, something that Joe Biden has experienced as president before and therefore is fully in control and capable of carrying out his duties as president of the United States,” Al Jazeera’s White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett said.

Biden had been scheduled to travel to Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania on Thursday to speak about efforts to reduce gun violence and attend a fundraiser in Philadelphia in the evening. He was then expected to travel to Wilmington, Delaware, where he has a home, for the weekend.

That trip and all travel for the next five days have been cancelled in the wake of his diagnosis.

While a number of those inside the White House have contracted the virus during Biden’s administration, the president had until now been able to avoid COVID-19 even as successive variants caused spikes of cases in the US.

First Lady Jill Biden, who is in Michigan and tested negative on Thursday, and said she will continue her duties.

Speaking to reporters in Detroit, the first lady said she had just spoken to the president. “He’s doing fine,” she said. “He’s feeling good.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, who caught COVID-19 back in April, tested negative following Biden’s diagnosis, the administration said.

Biden is neither the first world leader, nor the first US president, to contract the virus. His predecessor Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 in October, 2020 and was briefly hospitalised for the illness.

Trump’s bout with COVID-19 came before vaccinations were available. He had shunned mask-wearing and a number of those around him had contracted the virus, as well.

Source: Al Jazeera