U.S. President Joe Biden appeared virtually at a meeting of his top economic advisers on Friday, a day after testing positive for COVID-19 with what the White House described as “very mild” symptoms.
Biden had a raspy voice and occasional cough when addressing the meeting from his White House residence to discuss efforts to lower gas prices, but said, “I feel much better than I sound.”
When reporters asked how Biden was feeling before his remarks began, he gave a thumbs-up.
A statement released earlier in the day from the White House physician, Kevin O’Connor, said Biden’s temperature reached 37.4 C (99.4 F) on Thursday but went down on Friday.
“His voice is deeper this morning. His pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation remain normal, on room air,” he said.
O’Connor said Biden’s primary symptoms were a runny nose, fatigue and occasional dry cough. He said the president took Tylenol and “responded favorably” to the medicine.
The president also began Thursday a treatment of Paxlovid, the antiviral therapy treatment meant to reduce the severity of COVID-19.
O’Connor said Biden continued Friday to have a good prognosis.
“There has been nothing in the course of his illness thus far which gives me cause to alter that initial expectation,” he wrote.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Friday afternoon that Biden is improving and “has very mild symptoms.” She said he is benefiting from being twice vaccinated and twice boosted as well as taking the Paxlovid treatment.
Jean-Pierre said Biden is “still putting in eight-plus hours per day” and received his presidential daily security briefing Friday via video call.
The press secretary said it is not known exactly where Biden contracted the coronavirus but said the White House has contacted 17 people who have been in recent close contact with the president, including senior staff and members of Congress. She said so far none of those people have tested positive for the virus and all are wearing masks per CDC guidelines.
‘Very good mood’
White House COVID Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said Biden was feeling good when they spoke Friday via video call, reporting that the president slept well and ate his breakfast and lunch. He said Biden was “in a very good mood” and “joked that his one regret was that his appetite had not changed.”
He said all of Biden’s vital signs have been in the normal range but said the president has used an inhaler a few times since testing positive. Biden had asthma when he was younger and has an albuterol inhaler “that he uses as needed,” O’Connor said.
Jha said that officials should know in the coming days whether Biden contracted the highly contagious omicron subvariant BA.5 that is racing through the country.
About 100,000 new coronavirus cases are being reported every day in the United States.
Jha said Biden will remain in isolation in his White House residence instead of working from the Oval Office for at least five days and then will be tested again. Once the president tests negative for the coronavirus, he will return to work.
Jha sought to frame the narrative of the coronavirus as an illness that many Americans will get, but one that does not have to cause too much suffering.
“We have a very contagious variant. People will get infected. Our priority is that when people get infected, they don’t have a serious outcome,” he said.
‘Very contagious virus’
When asked if the president regrets any of his interactions with people in light of his diagnosis, Jha said getting the coronavirus “is not a failure. … It is a very contagious virus. It is widespread. People will get infected.”
While Biden at 79 falls into a high-risk category for becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus, health officials say his vaccination and booster status sharply reduces his risk for serious illness.
Jha said that Biden is receiving “world-class treatment” but said all Americans have access to the same treatment, including vaccines and antiretrovirals, and urged all people to be up to date on their shots.
Biden first tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday after receiving an antigen test. The reading was later confirmed by the more exacting Polymerase Chain Reaction test.
Former President Donald Trump also contracted the disease and was hospitalized toward the end of his four-year term. Vaccines were not available when Trump was infected.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.