WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, with his doctors saying the 79-year-old leader was experiencing mild fatigue and would isolate at the White House while carrying out his full duties. Biden had been due to travel to Pennsylvania during the day, the latest in a series of trips around the country as he seeks to revive waning Democratic Party fortunes ahead of midterm elections.
“He is fully vaccinated and twice boosted and experiencing very mild symptoms,” the White House said in a statement, adding that Biden had begun taking Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill, an antiviral used to minimize the severity of Covid-19. “Consistent with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, he will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time.”
Biden’s doctor Kevin O’Connor said in an official note to the White House press secretary that the president was suffering from fatigue, runny nose and a dry cough, starting on Wednesday evening. O’Connor added that Biden had tested positive in a rapid antigen test on Thursday morning before the result was confirmed by a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. “I talked to him just a few minutes ago. He’s doing fine, he’s feeling good,” First Lady Jill Biden, who tested negative, told reporters on a visit to a school in Michigan.
Joe Biden is reported to be in good general health, but his advanced age will heighten concern over the impact of COVID. Politically he is in a tough phrase of his presidency, facing November midterm elections that are forecast to be painful, as well as declining personal approval ratings. His approval ratings have hit a new low, with only 31 percent of Americans satisfied with the way he is running the country, according to the latest polls.
Biden had planned to spend more time on the ground in the United States in the coming weeks after a period of intense overseas travel, including a NATO summit in Spain and a controversial trip to Saudi Arabia. He is now expected to stay at the White House for several days. The CDC, the leading US government health agency, says that older adults are more likely to get severely sick from COVID-19, with risk increasing with age. On assuming office, Biden made a point of abiding by strict COVID protocols, holding socially distanced meetings or Zoom gatherings, and wearing a mask to public events – in sharp contrast to his predecessor Donald Trump.
While other members of the Biden’s family and a significant number of his close advisors contracted the virus, the president had remained Covid free until Thursday. Trump had tested positive for coronavirus in October, 2020 – in the middle of the bitterly fought election race he eventually lost to Biden. The news that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had both contracted the virus was a shocking development at a time when the pandemic was still unfolding across the globe.
Trump, who was 74 at the time, was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he spent the weekend and received various treatments. He returned to the White House three days later. The White House said Biden had last tested negative on Tuesday, and it pledged to provide a daily update on the president’s health “out of an abundance of transparency.”
The next two people in the line of presidential succession – Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – have both previously tested positive for COVID. Good wishes poured in from US politicians across the country’s sharp divide as well as from abroad. “Wishing you… a swift recovery from #COVID19. Stay strong!” tweeted World Health Organization chief Tedros Ghebreyesus. “Wishing President Biden a speedy recovery from COVID,” said leading US Republican Lindsey Graham. – AFP