The US President is “experiencing very mild symptoms” and is taking the antiviral medicine Paxlovid, his press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, while White House Covid coordinator Dr Ashish Jha said Mr Biden was tired, with a runny nose and dry cough. The 79-year-old, who is fully vaccinated and has received two booster jabs, will isolate at the White House and continue to carry out all his duties, including taking part in meetings via telephone and Zoom, a statement added.
Consistent with White House protocol, the president will continue to work in isolation until he tests negative, Ms Jean-Pierre said.
First Lady Jill Biden, who tested negative while in Delaware, said she had spoken to her husband and he was “doing fine”.
She said: “He’s feeling good. I tested negative this morning. I’m going to keep my schedule. According to CDC guidelines, I’m keeping masked.”
In a memo to Ms Jean-Pierre, Mr Biden’s physician Kevin O’Connor said he thought the president would respond favourably due to being fully vaccinated and twice boosted, adding that the early use of Paxlovid provided “additional protection against severe disease”.
Dr Jha said Mr Biden went to bed feeling fine but did not sleep well and then tested positive on Thursday morning.
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Eric Topol, a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, dubbed BA.5 “the worst version of the virus we’ve seen”.
Dr Topol told CNN last week that while the sub-variant seems to be less susceptible to immunity and previous vaccines, it doesn’t appear to be as dangerous as previous highly-transmissible Covid versions.
He said: “One good thing is that it doesn’t seem to be accompanied by ICU admissions and deaths as with previous variants, but it is really worrying.”
His remarks echoed those of the WHO’s Maria Van Kerkhove, who said while rising cases have caused more hospitalisations in some countries, deaths have not gone up dramatically.
There is also no evidence BA.5 is more dangerous than any of the other Omicron variants, she added, although spikes in cases can put health services under pressure and risk more people getting long Covid.
Mr Biden sparked fears for his health yesterday during a speech on climate change as he appeared to admit a shocking cancer diagnosis.
While on a visit to a former coal plant in Massachusetts, the president used the present tense in a confusing statement.
Speaking about growing up in Claymont, Delaware, which has many oil refineries, he said: “You’d have to put on your windshield wipers to get literally the oil slick off the window.
“That’s why I — and so damn many other people I grew up with — have cancer.”
White House officials clarified Mr Biden was referring to his past treatment for skin cancer and his deputy press secretary, Andrew Bates, pointed to his 2021 health exam, which noted his treatment for “several, localised non-melanoma skin cancers”. He had these removed before he took office.