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Biden tests positive for COVID-19 and has "very mild symptoms," White House says

Washington — President Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, confining himself to the White House to recover from seemingly mild symptoms as his doctor said he should respond well to treatment since he is fully vaccinated and boosted against the coronavirus.

The president, who is 79 years old, has started taking Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment made by Pfizer, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement announcing his diagnosis. The positive test is the first known time Mr. Biden has contracted the coronavirus.

“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,” she 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.”

In a video message on Twitter, Mr. Biden provided an update on his condition, saying he continued to work from the White House residence.

“Hey folks, I guess you heard — this morning I tested positive for COVID. But I’ve been double vaccinated and double boosted. Symptoms are mild,” the president said. “And I really appreciate your inquiries and concerns. 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 OK.”

Mr. Biden’s antigen test first detected the coronavirus, and the result was confirmed by a PCR test, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the White House physician, said in a letter released by the White House. He is experiencing a runny nose, an occasional dry cough and fatigue.

The president is fully vaccinated — he received his first Pfizer shot in December 2020 and second in January 2021 — and has received two booster shots, most recently at the end of March. O’Connor wrote he anticipates the president “will respond favorably, as most maximally protected patients do” to treatment.

Prior to Thursday’s test, he had most recently been screened for COVID-19 on Tuesday and the result was negative, Jean-Pierre said. First lady Dr. Jill Biden tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday morning in Delaware, according to her spokesman Michael LaRosa. The first lady also confirmed her negative test to reporters Thursday in Detroit. 

“I talked to him just a few minutes ago,” the first lady said of her husband. “He’s doing fine, he’s feeling good.”

Mr. Biden will continue to “work in isolation until he tests negative,” Jean-Pierre said, after which he will return to working in-person. The White House will provide daily updates on the president’s status “out of an abundance of transparency,” she continued. 

In a message to White House aides obtained by CBS News, chief of staff Ron Klain wrote: “We have said for some time that there was a substantial possibility that the President — like anyone else — could get COVID, and we have prepared for this possibility.  We are now executing on our plan so that the President can continue to work seamlessly from the Residence.”

The president was set to travel to Pennsylvania on Thursday, first to Wilkes-Barre for remarks unveiling a crime prevention plan, and then to Philadelphia for a fundraising reception for the Democratic National Committee. That trip will no longer happen, and he will remain at the White House.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who had the virus earlier this year, is currently in North Carolina and will wear a mask on the advice of the White House medical team, according to a White House official. She tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday morning and was last with Mr. Biden on Tuesday, the said. The president and vice president also spoke by phone on Thursday.

The diagnosis comes days after the president returned from a four-day trip to the Middle East, his first as president, and the day after he delivered remarks in Massachusetts on actions his administration is taking to combat climate change. Mr. Biden was joined on the trip aboard Air Force One by members of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation, including Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, both Democrats. Warren tested negative Thursday, according to her spokesperson, as did Rep. Jake Auchincloss, who also traveled with the president, his communications director tweeted.

The White House Medical Unit will notify all of Mr. Biden’s close contacts of his positive test, Jean-Pierre said, including those who interacted with the president during his trip Wednesday. The president interacted with a number of politicians Wednesday when he visited Somerset, Massachusetts.

The president has managed to avoid contracting COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, even as several members of his administration and top lawmakers were diagnosed — some after being around the president.

Harris tested positive for COVID-19 in April. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi contracted the virus earlier that month after attending two events at the White House, sharing the stage with Mr. Biden at one. Other members of the president’s Cabinet, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra (who tested positive twice) and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo have also had COVID-19.

The president received well wishes from Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as from fellow world leaders, following disclosure of his diagnosis.

“I was sorry to hear that President Biden has tested positive for COVID-19,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted. “Wishing him a speedy recovery.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both extended best wishes to Mr. Biden and hopes for a quick recovery.

Fueled by the BA.5 subvariant, the number of new COVID-19 cases is slowly beginning to tick up and infections are rising in numerous states. Hospitalizations from the coronavirus among Americans ages 70 and older have also reached the worst levels since February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Washington, D.C., the COVID-19 community level is “medium,” according to the agency, and the White House has continued to urge Americans to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the BA.5 strain has the capacity to evade immunity acquired from vaccination and prior infection, and predicted cases are being underreported.

“I think most Americans have started to accept this as part of the fabric of daily living,” he said.

Nancy Cordes, Alex Tin and Jack Turman contributed to this report.


Source: CBS Minnesota

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