The White House has capitalized on Biden’s apparent mild illness this week to convey the importance of taking health precautions and highlight the administration’s progress in fighting the virus. Biden emphasized this message during his speech, using himself as a prime example of how far the country has come with protecting people against serious infections.
“It’s a real statement on where we are in the fight against Covid-19,” he said, urging Americans to get vaccinations and booster shots as the highly contagious BA. 5 variant spreads across the country.
Biden made specific mention contrasting his Covid case to that of former President Donald Trump, who tested positive for the virus in the summer of 2020. While Trump — who has loudly hinted at running in the 2024 presidential election — had to be airlifted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Biden was able to work comfortably from an upstairs office in the White House. Biden chalked up that difference in treatment to the development of vaccines and antivirals like Paxlovid, with which the president was treated across the last five days.
“Over the past 18 months, my administration has left no stone unturned in this fight against the pandemic. None,” Biden said. “Let’s keep emerging from one of the darkest moments in our history with hope and light for what can come.”
Biden tested negative for Covid on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, his personal physician announced before the remarks, signaling an apparent end the president’s brush with the virus. The president first tested positive for Covid on Friday.
Wary of the potential for a “rebound” infection suffered by some patients who, like the president, were treated with the antiviral Paxlovid, Kevin O’Connor said Biden would increase his testing cadence in the coming days. He will also continue to wear a mask for 10 days whenever he is around other people.
In a tweet Wednesday morning, Biden posted a picture of a negative Covid test and thanked his doctor for providing daily care: “Back to the Oval. Thanks to Doc for the good care, and to all of you for your support.”
Since contracting the virus on Friday, the president has made several virtual appearances at meetings, often accompanied by a hoarse voice and slight cough. Throughout his illness, the White House maintained that Biden never skipped a beat, working eight-hour days despite the symptoms.
At 79 years old, Biden’s health and the potential for a rebound infection have taken center stage in contentious press briefings with White House officials. Tension has mounted specifically in recent days around the decision for Ashish Jha, the administration’s Covid response coordinator, to deliver public updates on Biden’s health rather than O’Connor, who has been directly treating the president and releasing daily updates on his condition through letters released by the White House.
Asked about O’Connor’s absence, Jha and Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre have consistently pivoted to the president’s success with battling the virus, emphasizing that he immediately began treatment and is expected to make a full recovery soon. After completing the Paxlovid course Tuesday, Biden resumed exercise and had “absolutely normal” pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature, O’Connor wrote.
Over the past week, the diagnosis has allowed the White House to relay a crucial message to the public: Covid is here to stay, and Americans will have to learn to live with it.
“While we have a very contagious variant out there, thanks to the president’s leadership, we have the ability to manage this,” Jha said during a Friday press conference. “This virus is going to be with us forever.”
Biden’s case came shortly after a string of public appearances, leading to 17 close contacts who subsequently tested negative. During press conferences, Jean-Pierre has repeatedly reiterated the president’s eagerness to resume in-person activities once it is deemed safe to do so.