‘I’ve got no symptoms but I am going to isolate for the safety of everyone around me’, president says
In a 30 July memo, the physician to the president, Dr Kevin O’Connor wrote that “as described last week, acknowledging the potential for so-called ‘rebound’ COVID positivity observed in a small percentage of patients treated with PAXLOVID, the President increased his testing cadence, both to protect people around him and to assure early detection of any return of viral replication”.
“After testing negative on Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning, Thursday morning and Friday morning, the President tested positive late Saturday morning, by antigen testing. This in fact represents ‘rebound’ positivity”, Dr O’Connor added.
“Folks, today I tested positive for COVID again”, Mr Biden tweeted at 2.45pm on Saturday. “This happens with a small minority of folks. I’ve got no symptoms but I am going to isolate for the safety of everyone around me. I’m still at work, and will be back on the road soon.”
“The President has experienced no reemergence of symptoms, and continues to feel quite well”, Dr O’Connor added. “This being the case, there is no reason to reinitiate treatment at this time, but we will obviously continue close observation.”
“However, given his positive antigen test, he will reinitiate strict isolation procedures”, he added. “As I’ve stated previously, the President continues to be very specifically conscientious to protect any of the Executive Residence, White House, Secret Service and other staff whose duties require any (albeit socially distanced) proximity to him.”
Mr Biden spoke from the White House earlier this week after testing negative following his initial infection, noting that he had been infected by the BA.5 variant, which is connected to the Omicron variant of the virus that wreaked havoc across the US this winter, and said the highly transmissible nature of this latest Sars-CoV-2 variant means it will spread widely among the US population irrespective of preventative measures.
“This new variant that infected me is getting a lot of people infected all around the world, not just here in the United States”, Mr Biden said on Wednesday. “The reality is that many of us are still going to get Covid, even if we take the precautions — that doesn’t mean we’re doing anything wrong.”
The president noted that he had been able to remain on the job throughout his five-day isolation period, calling his ability to work while undergoing treatment a “real statement on where we are in the fight against Covid”.
Mr Biden’s bout with the coronavirus was a stark contrast to what his predecessor, Donald Trump, went through after contracting it in October 2020.
At the time, Mr Trump — who eschewed masking and other mitigation measures as he campaigned for re-election — became so severely ill that his physicians insisted that he travel by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland.
Mr Trump chose to fly there while he was still able to go under his own power so as to avoid being photographed in a wheelchair by the press, and was so ill at the time that administration officials had to arrange for him to receive a monoclonal antibody treatment that was not available to the general public.
Mr Biden noted the contrast between his bout with Covid and Mr Trump’s, and credited his own fast recovery to vaccinations and treatments his administration has worked to make widely available, including the antiviral he was treated with, Paxlovid.
“When my predecessor got Covid, he had to get a helicopter to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered”, he said. “I got Covid and I worked from upstairs in the White House … for the five-day period”.
Mr Biden said the difference between his experience and Mr Trump’s stemmed from “vaccinations, of course” as well as “three new tools” that are “free to all and widely available”: Covid-19 vaccinations, testing, and the Paxlovid antiviral treatment.
“You don’t need to be president to get these tools used for your defence”, he said. “In fact, the same booster shots, the same at-home test, the same treatment that I got. It’s available to you.”
The president also boasted about the measures his administration has taken to get the virus under control, calling the situation in the US today “radically different” from what Americans faced just one year ago.
“Booster shots weren’t available a year ago. They are now everywhere. Every person aged five and over should get a booster shot. If you’re over 50 years old, you should get two booster shots”, he said. “We’ve made tests widely available, so you can take one before attending a large indoor gathering or visiting with high-risk individuals. We made high-quality masks available for free. So you should consider wearing a mask when you’re in a crowded indoor public place. These precautions add an extra layer of protection for you and for those around you.”
“What’s different now is our ability to protect ourselves from serious illness due to Covid … that’s radically different today than it was just a year ago”, he said, adding that although the coronavirus “isn’t gone”, deaths from Covid-19 are 90 per cent lower than this time last year.
“Our fight against Covid is making a huge difference”, Mr Biden said, adding that “what’s different now is our ability to protect ourselves” against “serious illness”.