Biden tests positive for Covid, experiencing mild symptoms

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden tested positive for Covid on Thursday and is experiencing “mild symptoms,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden, 79, is being treated with the antiviral Paxlovid and is fully vaccinated and twice boosted, the statement said. White House Covid coordinator Ashish Jha said Biden is tired, has a runny nose, and a dry cough. Jha said Biden felt fine when he went to bed, but didn’t sleep well.

“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,” the statement 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.”

The positive test comes days after Biden returned from a trip overseas where he was in close contact with a number of leaders in Israel and the Middle East. Ahead of the trip, White House officials said Biden would be minimizing contact as a Covid precaution, but during public engagements, Biden was seen shaking hands and embracing officials and was seen without a mask during indoor meetings.

First lady Jill Biden is considered a close contact and is following CDC guidance on masking and social distancing, her spokesman said. The first lady said the president is “doing fine” and that she tested negative.

“My husband tested positive for Covid, I talked to him just a few minutes ago, he’s doing fine,” the first lady said Thursday ahead of an education event in Detroit. “He’s feeling good. I tested negative this morning. I am going to keep my schedule.”

Biden’s doctor Kevin O’Connor said in a letter that Biden received a positive antigen test as part of a routine screening and the test was later confirmed by a more sensitive PCR test. He said Biden started experiencing a dry cough Wednesday evening.

“The President is fully vaccinated and twice-boosted, so I anticipate that he will respond favorably, as most maximally protected patients do,” O’Connor said in the letter.

Biden’s last known negative Covid test was on July 19, according to the White House. The following day he traveled to Massachusetts for a climate change event.

During a wave of infections in Washington earlier in the year, the White House warned that it was a possibility Biden would get Covid at some point but said that he had a level of protection from his vaccinations and access to antiviral treatments shown to greatly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

The White House said it will provide a daily update on the president’s status, and inform all close contacts, including members of Congress who interacted with him at the event Wednesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris was traveling to North Carolina on Air Force Two at the time Biden’s positive test was announced, and no decision yet has been made to change her schedule, her office said.

Covid cases along with hospitalizations have been increasing across the U.S. driven by the highly-transmissible BA.5 variant, which recently became the dominant strain in the U.S.

Biden is the second sitting U.S. president to get Covid after his predecessor Donald Trump had to be hospitalized with an infection in 2020 before the availability of the vaccines. Former President Barack Obama also tested positive for Covid in March.

Biden is the most high profile of scores of Washington officials who have contracted the virus this year, including his Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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