President Joe Biden insisted he was feeling fine and hard at work on Thursday, after the White House announced he had caught COVID-19 and was isolating at his residence.
In a video posted on Twitter, the 79-year-old tried to reassure the nation that everything was going to be OK.
Hey folks, I guess you heard: This morning I tested positive for COVID,’ he said, standing on the White House balcony overlooking the south lawn
‘But I’ve been double vaccinated, double boosted, symptoms are mild and I really appreciate your inquiries and concerns.
‘I’m doing well. Getting a lot of work done. I’m 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.’
Biden was forced to cancel a planned trip to Pennsylvania where he was due to announce a funding increase for police and will be forced to isolate away from first lady Jill until he tests negative.
Even so, White House officials took pains to insist that Biden was carrying out a full work program.
Jill, who tested negative despite being a close contact, said her husband was doing well.
‘I talked to him just a few minutes ago,’ she told reporters during a trip to Detroit. ‘He’s doing fine, he’s feeling good.’
Biden had two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shortly before taking office. He received a first booster shot in September and a second on March 30.
Stringent White House precautions meant he had avoided the virus, even as it laid low close aides and advisers.
‘This morning, President Biden tested positive for COVID-19. He is fully vaccinated and twice boosted and experiencing very mild symptoms,’ said Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
‘He has begun taking Paxlovid. 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.’
Biden’s advanced age, his history with non-melanoma skin cancers and the fact he takes drugs for high cholesterol and blood clots will all raise concerns that he could be at risk of developing severe illness.
President Joe Biden thanked the public for their concern in a video message issued after he tested positive for COVID-19
Earlier the White House issued a photograph of President Joe Biden at work in the residence on Thursday
The first lady’s office said on Thursday that Jill Biden had tested negative, despite being a close contact, and would stick to her schedule in Michigan and Georgia. She told reporters that her husband was doing well
Biden’s doctor said symptoms of a dry cough, runny nose and fatigue had begun on Wednesday evening
With symptoms emerging on average about five days after contact with an infectious person, Biden’s recent contacts and travel will be under scrutiny for a possible source.
Six days ago Biden was in Saudi Arabia where he bumped fists with the controversial figure of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman; and earlier he was forced to pause remarks in Israel because of a coughing fit.
What is Pfizer’s ‘gold standard’ Covid drug Paxlovid?
Paxlovid is an antiviral drug designed to halt a COVID infection in its tracks.
The pill works by interfering with the viral replication process, stopping COVID from making copies of itself.
This buys valuable time for the immune system to fight off the virus.
It is available on prescription in the U.S. to any immunocompromised Americans within five days of them developing COVID symptoms.
It is also free, with the Federal Government footing the $530 bill for each course.
Patients who receive the treatment must take three tablets twice a day for five days.
Clinical trials showed it slashed hospitalisation rates by 89 per cent among at-risk people who took it within three days of developing Covid symptoms. Some of these were vaccinated.
Supplies were scarce when the pill was first approved in December, but there is now an abundance in the U.S. across many states.
While the virus cut a swath through Washington’s political class – from Vice President Kamala Harris to cabinet secretaries and successive press secretaries – Biden had avoided testing positive.
In part that was because of stringent measures to protect the commander-in-chief, such as not serving water to guests in his presence – lest they remove their masks – and seating him 10ft from participants in meetings.
Dr. Kevin O’Connell, physician to the president, said symptoms began on Wednesday evening.
In a letter to the press secretary he said he expected the president to respond well to treatment.
‘President Biden is currently experiencing mild symptoms, mostly rhinorrhea (or ‘runny nose’) and fatigue, with an occasional dry cough, which started yesterday evening,’ he wrote.
The first lady’s office said Jill Biden had tested negative in Detroit on Thursday morning, and would stick to her planned schedule in Michigan and Georgia.
And a White House official said Vice President Kamala Harris had also tested negative.
‘She was last with the president on Tuesday,’ said the official. ‘She spoke to the president by phone this morning.’
Harris’s schedule – a trip to North Carolina – will continue as planned, but the vice president will remain masked throughout, on CDC advice.
Jean-Pierre said Biden’s last negative test came on Tuesday.
And she said the White House will provide a daily update on his health and that the president will take part in his planned meetings by phone and Zoom from the White House residence.
‘Consistent with White House protocol for positive COVID cases, which goes above and beyond CDC guidance, he will continue to work in isolation until he tests negative,’ she added.
‘Once he tests negative, he will return to in-person work.’
Top White House officials in recent months have been matter-of-fact about the likelihood of the president getting COVID, a measure of how engrained the virus has become in society — and of its diminished threat for those who are up to date on their vaccinations and with access to treatments.
Pfizer’s Paxlovid has become the weapon of choice for tackling COVID infections.
It has been proven to bring about a 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.
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.
‘I know there are questions about whether we should gather here tonight because of COVID,’ he said. ‘Well, we’re here to show the country that we’re getting through this pandemic.’
Yet, the White House has gone to great lengths to keep Biden healthy.
Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday morning, a day after he traveled to Massachusetts to deliver a major speech on climate change. Officials said his last negative test was on Tuesday
Vice President Kamala Harris gave a thumbs up when asked by reporters how Biden was doing after landing in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a broadband event
Biden will work from the residence of the White House on Thursday, joining meetings by phone and Zoom. The exterior is pictured after his positive test was confirmed
On Wednesday, Biden delivered a speech in Massachusetts. He has stepped up travel in recent weeks in the months leading up to the midterms – with his polls dwindling and Democrats facing defeat at the hands of Republicans
A handout photo of President Joe Biden (left) fist-bumping Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) as he arrived for a meeting with the controversial royal Friday evening in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
A cough and a fist bump with MBS on Saturday during his packed Middle East trip and a rest from public events on Monday: Biden’s schedule for the last seven days before he tested COVID positive
Thursday – July 14 – Biden arrives in Israel and visits a packed stadium
The president held one-on-one meetings with Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He also participated in a meeting of the ‘I2U2,’ which included leaders from Israel, India and the United Arab Emirates and held a press conference with Lapid.
In the evening he attended a reception held by Herzog and attended the opening of the Maccabiah Games, known as the Jewish Olympics.
Biden speaks to US athletes during the openning ceremony of the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem,
Biden poses with fans at the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem on Thursday, July 14
Throngs of crowds gathered at the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem
Friday – July 15 – Biden fist bumps with MBS and coughs through a press conference in Jerusalem
Biden fist bumped Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he arrived for a meeting with the controversial royal and his father King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud Friday evening in Jeddah.
Later, he gave a press briefing where DailyMail.com asked for his reaction to criticism of the friendly gesture. ‘What a silly question,’ the president remarked.
Before arriving in Jeddah, Biden had been in Jerusalem, where he delivered a public address and visited the West Bank before holding a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The president coughed his way through remarks at an East Jerusalem Hospital Network Event.
He told a story about a previous brain anuerysm: ‘I was making a speech and I had a terrible headac- — (coughs) — excuse me — a terrible headache. And — sorry — (takes a sip of water) — (coughs) — I swallowed wrong. I had a terrible headache. This was years ago.’
Saturday – July 16 – Biden has a full day of meetings in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
On Saturday the president had a full day of bilateral meetings in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with Prime Ministers Mustafa Al-Kadhimi of Iraq, Abdel Fattah al Sisi Egypt and Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates.
The meetings were a part of a summit of the GCC + 3 – bringing together leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman – as well as the heads of state of the United States, Egypt and Iraq.
Biden had hoped to reach a deal on oil production at a time of sky-high gas prices.
He concluded his less-than-24 hour stint in Saudi Arabia with public remarks offering not-so-veiled criticism on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Citizens should be able to ‘question and criticize their leaders without fear of reprisal,’ he said, referring to the killing of Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden then returned back to Washington and was back at the White House before midnight.
Sunday – July 17 – Biden attends Mass
Biden went to church Sunday evening at Holy Trinity in Georgetown.
Monday – Day of rest
Monday the president had a day of rest from the public eye after returning from a Middle East tour.
Tuesday – Biden meets with Ukrainian first lady
On Tuesday the president and First Lady Jill met with Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska at the White House. He offered Zelenska a bouquet of flowers and was photographed touching her back and posing for photos in close proximity.
Wednesday – Biden travels to Massachusetts
On Wednesday, Biden gave a speech on climate change in Somerset, Massachusetts.
Speaking at Brayton Point Power Station – New England’s largest coal plant, which is being transformed into a factory producing cables for offshore wind farms- Biden blamed the failure of Congress to act on climate change on Republicans, instead of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The president raised eyebrows by announcing he had cancer in an accidental misstep. Speaking about how pollution causes cancer, the president said. ‘That’s why I — and so damn many other people I grew up with — have cancer,’ he said. Biden had several non-melanoma skin cancers removed before he became president.
On Tuesday the president and First Lady Jill met with Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska at the White House
Biden embraces Herzog during the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games
Jordanian King Abdullah II (L) meets U.S. President Joe Biden (R) within Jeddah Security and Development Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on July 16
US President Joe Biden (L) and Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid shake hands before the start of a joint press conference in Jerusalem, on July 14,
For example, during a February meeting with governors he was the only one to be given a glass of water. And he sat more than 10 feet away from everyone, including Harris.
Staff entering wearing surgical masks have been handed the more protective N95 version.
Biden is far from the first world leader to be laid low by the virus.
Donald Trump was hospitalized for three nights in October 2020. Aides played down the severity of his illness at the time, but it later emerged that some feared he might die amid a scramble for the very latest drugs.
Biden and his administration have been much more cautious in taking preventative measures than their predecessors.
However, in his State of the Union address at the start or March Biden said the declining number of cases and the effectiveness of vaccines meant it was safe for most Americans to get back to normal.
‘Tonight, I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,’ he said. ‘It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.’
The emergence of fresh variants in recent weeks has upended some of that optimism. In particular, the BA.5 variant is thought to be responsible for a fresh rise in cases.
‘We should not let it disrupt our lives,’ said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, recently, ‘but we cannot deny that it is a reality that we need to deal with.’
The White House also scrapped plans for Biden to travel to Philadelphia for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser on Thursday night and canceled his trip home to Delaware at the weekend.
During his presidential campaign, Biden held socially distanced events, including having reporters sit in circles to ensure they were six feet away from one another, in contrast to the more relaxed regimen of Donald Trump’s campaign
Biden’s predecessor Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19 for three days in 2020, shortly before the presidential election