The White House announced on Thursday morning that President Biden had tested positive for COVID, his first known bout with the virus.
The 79-year-old Biden began a regimen of the anti-viral Paxlovid shortly after his test came back positive. At the beginning of his infection, his symptoms were mild enough that he continued to work via Zoom as he isolated in the executive residence of the White House. According to Biden’s doctor, those symptoms included fatigue and a cough. By Monday, his doctor said in a press release that the president’s symptoms have “almost completely resolved,” with only some “residual” congestion and “minimal hoarseness.”
Shortly after his positive test was announced, Biden posted a picture of himself on Instagram and said he was “doing great.”
The last time a president tested positive for COVID was a different kind of scene. Donald Trump’s positive test came in the era before vaccines or anti-virals, putting him in significantly more danger than Biden faces today. Trump also refused to disclose his actual condition — which was reportedly much worse than the public knew at the time — and left the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to go wave to supporters from his limo. The White House promises a more open process. It will provide daily briefings into Biden’s health, and it even invented a new phrase of corporate-speak: “out of an abundance of transparency.”
Biden’s COVID case comes amid a nationwide surge caused by the latest Omicron variant, BA.5. Over the past seven days, an average of 127,000 Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus — almost certainly a drastic undercount since that number does not include the many positive tests from at-home rapid kits, which are not reported to local health officials. While deaths and hospitalizations are largely uncoupled from the increase in cases, they are also rising, with a 32 percent increase in deaths over the past two weeks.