WASHINGTON - President Biden tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday morning, the White House said.
According to a statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the president has "very mild" symptoms and is taking Paxlovid, the drug used to treat COVID-19. Biden is vaccinated against COVID-19 and has had two booster shots.
"Consistent with CDC guidelines, he will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time," the statement 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."
When administered within five days of symptoms appearing, Paxlovid, produced by drugmaker Pfizer, has been proven to bring about a 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.
The White House said Biden can return to work when he tests negative. His last COVID test before Thursday was on Tuesday when he tested negative.
"Out of an abundance of transparency, the White House will provide a daily update on the President’s status as he continues to carry out the full duties of the office while in isolation," the White House said.
Up to this point, Biden’s ability to avoid the virus seemed to defy the odds, even with the testing procedures in place for those expected to be in close contact with him. Prior waves of the virus swept through Washington’s political class, infecting Vice President Kamala Harris, Cabinet members, White House staffers and lawmakers. Biden has increasingly stepped up his travel schedule and resumed holding large indoor events where not everyone is tested.
In an April 30 speech to more than 2,600 attendees at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, Biden acknowledged the risks of attending large events, but said it was worthwhile to attend.
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the former location of the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachussets, on July 20, 2022. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
The White House has sought to go above and beyond public health guidelines to protect the president, with all visitors and staff, required to attest to their vaccination status or submit to daily tests. Additionally, people expected to be in close proximity to Biden are tested daily.
Biden is far from the first world leader — and not the first U.S. president — to get the coronavirus, which has infected former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and more than a dozen other leaders and high-ranking officials globally.
When Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump, contracted the disease in October 2020, it was a far different time. Vaccines were not available and treatment options were limited and less advanced. After being diagnosed with COVID-19 at the White House, Trump was given an experimental antibody treatment and steroids after his blood oxygen levels fell dangerously low. He was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three days.
After more than two years and over a million deaths in the U.S., the virus is still killing an average of 353 people a day in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The unvaccinated are at far greater risk, more than two times more likely to test positive and nine times more likely to die from the virus than those who have received at least a primary dose of the vaccines, according to the public health agency.
The highly transmissible omicron variant is the dominant strain in the U.S., but scientists say it poses a lower risk for severe illness to those who are up to date on their vaccinations. The BA.5 sub-strain, believed to be even more contagious, now makes up more than 65% of U.S. cases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.