A cheerful President Joe Biden reveled Thursday in his recent status as a coronavirus-negative patient, presenting himself as an example of how vaccines and treatment can make the illness a brief, mild ailment instead of something more serious or even deadly.
“My symptoms were mild, my recovery was quick and I’m feeling great,” Biden, without the raspy voice he had earlier in the week, told reporters in the Rose Garden before heading to the Oval Office to work. “It’s a real statement of where we are in the fight against COVID-19.”
The president, who tested positive for the virus a week ago, has now tested negative twice, his doctor, Kevin O’Connor, said in a letter released Thursday to the media.
Biden took antigen tests, he said; previously, Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said PCR tests were not useful for a recently-recovered COVID patient because they will often continue to show infection even after the patient has recovered.
The president now will “discontinue his strict isolation measures” that had him delivering remarks and participating in meetings by video, O’Connor said. Biden will nonetheless continue to wear a mask for 10 days when he is around others to protect White House staff and Secret Service who are around him daily, O’Connor said
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Since there is a possibility of a “rebound” case of COVID after the five-day course of the COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid, Biden will increase the frequency of his regular testing, O’Connor said.
Biden used the occasion of his return to in-person work to underscore the importance of testing, vaccinations, booster shots and treatment for those who succumb to the virus.
Despite best efforts to avoid getting infected, “the reality is that BA.5,” the newest and highly transmissible variant of COVID-19, “means that many of us are still going to get COVID even though we take the precautions,” Biden said. “That doesn’t mean we’re doing anything wrong. Our fight against COVID is making a huge difference.”
He noted that deaths are down about 90% since he took office because of the availability of free tests and vaccines.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Biden said. “When my predecessor got covid, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed… He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered. When I got covid, I worked from upstairs at the White House…the difference is vaccinations” as well as treatment such as the Paxlovid Biden took for five days.
“And to my friends in Congress, let’s keep investing in these tools — vaccinations, treatments, tests and more — so we can help make them available to Americans and the American people on a permanent basis,” Biden added. “Let’s keep moving forward safely.”
With a wave to staff and reporters, Biden did something he had not been able to do in a week: walk to the Oval Office to work.