US: Biden 'doing well', remains productive after testing positive for Covid-19

Multiple members of the President's administration have tested positive for coronavirus in recent months



Photo: @POTUS/Twitter
Photo: @POTUS/Twitter

By Reuters

Published: Fri 22 Jul 2022, 1:22 PM

Last updated: Fri 22 Jul 2022, 10:22 PM

Joe Biden, the oldest person ever to serve as President of the United States, has tested positive for Covid-19. According to a White House statement on Thursday, he is currently experiencing mild symptoms and will continue working, but in isolation.

Biden, 79, has a runny nose, fatigue and an occasional dry cough— symptoms which he began to experience late on Wednesday, White House physician Kevin O'Connor said, in a note released on Thursday. Biden had begun taking the antiviral treatment Paxlovid, in response to these symptoms.

Fully vaccinated and twice boosted, Biden said he was "doing well" in a video posted on his Twitter account. In the 21-second clip, he also said he was "getting a lot of work done", and would continue with his duties. A photograph on his Twitter account showed him smiling, wearing a blazer and sitting at a desk with papers.

Dr Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, explained that Biden's oxygen levels were normal, and the president would be in isolation for five days, after which he would return to public events once he tested negative for the virus.

Biden has become ill at a time when his administration is grappling with soaring inflation, global supply challenges, mass shootings and Russia's land assault on Ukraine. His illness forced the cancellation of a trip to Pennsylvania, where he intended to lay out plans to ask Congress for $37 billion to fuel crime prevention programs.

The White House provided an unusually detailed account of the president's morning activities— including a series of phone calls to political allies. People who had come into close contact with Biden were being informed too.

Vice President Kamala Harris had also been in close contact with Biden on Tuesday, a White House official said. Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, told MSNBC he had been as well, but that so far, no one linked to the president's case had tested positive.

Paxlovid

The Pfizer Inc antiviral drug Paxlovid that Biden is taking has been shown to reduce the risk of severe disease by nearly 90 per cent in high risk patients, if given within the first five days of infection. However, Paxlovid has, in some cases, been associated with rebound infections: patients improving quickly and testing negative after a five-day course of the drug, only to find the symptoms returning days later.

Dr Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at Northwell Health in New York, who is not treating the president, said Paxlovid is likely the only treatment Biden will get, unless his symptoms worsen.

"Elderly people are more at risk for developing complications from Covid… It dramatically is lower if you've been vaccinated and doubly boosted, which he has been, so I anticipate he will do very well," he explained.

At Biden's last doctor's visit in November 2021, doctors reported that the president had atrial fibrillation, a common irregular heartbeat for which he takes Eliquis, a drug designed to prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Dr Jha said that Biden would stop taking Eliquis and the statin Crestor while on his Paxlovid treatment, so as to avoid a negative interaction between the drugs.

Yale University cardiologist Dr Harlan Krumholz, said doctors had to balance risks in medicine.

"Sometimes the choice to mitigate one thing may elevate risk for something else. I am hopeful that the president will get through Covid, be helped by Paxlovid, and soon get back on the medication that reduces his risk from atrial fibrillation," he said.

Covid-19 and the White House

Multiple members of Biden's administration and other senior figures in Washington have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent months, including Harris and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of whom have since tested negative and resumed working. While many Americans have moved on from the strict precautions of the pandemic's early months, returning to offices and schools and resuming summer travel, the virus has been spreading rapidly.

US cases are up more than 25 per cent in the last month, according to CDC data, with the BA.5 subvariant taking hold.

Evading the immune protection afforded either by vaccination or prior infection, BA.5 has been the dominant subvariant in the United States since at least early July and has driven a surge of new infections globally.

More than 1 million people have died from Covid-19 in the United States. Most of those deaths (about 600,000), happened after Biden took office in January 2021 at the peak of a major wave of the disease.

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