President Joe Biden tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday, finally contracting the virus whose control and ultimate defeat he had made a centerpiece of his campaign for the White House.Most Read from BloombergBiden’s illness, coming after a five-day trip to the Middle East during which he made few efforts to avoid infection, highlights the endurance of a pandemic that has killed millions of people worldwide and upturned the global economy.Biden, 79, is experiencing mild symptoms and has begun taking Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid treatment for the disease, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said in a memo to staff obtained by Bloomberg.
Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, said Biden’s “risk of serious illness is dramatically lower” because he’s fully vaccinated and has received two boosters.
Klain said the White House Medical Unit is identifying all of Biden’s close contacts and inform them of his infection.
First lady Jill Biden, who is visiting Detroit, tested negative for Covid Thursday morning, she tweeted, adding that she’d spoken to Biden “and he’s feeling fine, just experiencing a few mild symptoms.”
Earlier this month, the White House said it was stepping up efforts to encourage vaccinations, including booster shots for those eligible.But at the same time, Biden has more freely engaged in social and business activities without precautions such as masks or distancing.
But the president has recently attended larger events where not all attendees are tested.Before his trip to the Middle East, White House officials said Biden would be cautious as he met with foreign officials by avoiding handshakes and other intimate moments.
But almost as soon as he stepped off the plane, Biden began greeting people warmly with handshakes and even embraces.White House officials have previously said following the infection of top administration officials — including Harris — that it would not be surprising if Biden contracted the virus, even considering expanded safety protocols in place.
But Biden’s aides have increasingly shrugged off the risk, saying privately that they were confident that if he contracted the disease, his case would be mild, thanks to his relative fitness, vaccinations and the availability of treatments.One White House official said it was business as usual at the building on Thursday, with Biden participating in meetings by Zoom.Biden tested positive first on an antigen test and then again on a PCR test, White House physician Kevin O’Connor said in a memo released by the White House.His symptoms are mild and include a runny nose, fatigue, and an occasional dry cough, O’Connor said.