WASHINGTON (CN) — No longer showing signs of the Covid-19 infection, President Joe Biden appeared outside the White House on Wednesday to say he will return to working in person, albeit with a face covering for another five days.
“My recovery was quick and I'm feeling great,” Biden said. “The entire time I was in isolation, I was able to work and to carry out the duties of the office and without any interruption. It's a real statement to where we are in the fight against Covid-19.”
Biden, 79, tested positive for Covid-19 six days ago and has participated in planned meetings since that time by video and teleconference, consistent with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The White House reported that Biden was being treated with the antiviral drug Paxlovid for what it called “very mild symptoms.”
While the president managed to avoid infection for the last 2 1/2 years, his predecessor was less successful. When former President Donald Trump contracted Covid-19 in October 2020, the onetime coronavirus skeptic had to be helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center, his condition reported as severely ill.
Biden noted his case — which he attributed to the omicron BA.5 variant — was so mild by contrast that he was able to work from the upstairs of the White House.
“The difference is vaccinations, of course, but also three new tools free to all and widely available. You don't need to be president to get these tools to use for your defense,” Biden said, pressing at-home test kits and booster shots, as well as Paxlovid.
“It wasn't available a year ago. It is now,” the president said of the oral antiviral pill that helps keep high-risk patients from becoming so sick with Covid-19 they need to be hospitalized. “Now, you can take these pills at home. You can get them for free at tens of thousands of local drugstores around the country.”
Because the Food and Drug Administration even allows many pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid, a doctor’s note is not necessary, Biden emphasized.
The highly infectious BA.5 variant is causing a new wave of Covid-19 infections across the country, with the CDC citing it as the most dominant strain of the virus in the U.S. BA.5 has not proven more deadly than previous variants but is able to evade previous immunity, including immunity created from previous Covid-19 infections.
Biden pressed in his speech Wednesday how the government is working to help slow the spread of BA.5, with billions of dollars in federal funding earmarked to improve ventilation in schools and public buildings, a steady supply of free Covid-19 testing and making high-quality masks freely available to the public for use in crowded indoor public places.
Every person over 5 years old is eligible for a booster shot, while those older than 50 are entitled to two additional jabs. Biden said Americans should take advantage of booster shots to significantly lower their chances of severe Covid-19.
Still, he noted that no precaution could grant anyone total immunity.
“The reality is that BA.5 means many of us are still going to get Covid, even if we take the precautions,” he noted. “That doesn't mean we're doing anything wrong. Unfortunately, Covid is still with us, as it has been for 2 1/2 years.”
However, he added, Covid-19 deaths are down 90% from when he took office.
Biden, who is fully vaccinated and has received two booster doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, had last tested negative for the virus last Tuesday. The following Thursday, he tested positive on both an antigen and a PCR test.
For the first two years of the pandemic, Biden evaded the virus even as high-level officials including Vice President Kamala Harris and members of Congress tested positive.
Kevin O’Connor, physician to the president, had said Biden’s symptoms began Wednesday, with a runny nose, fatigue and an occasional dry cough.
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