WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden twice tested negative for the coronavirus this week, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News, despite high-profile interactions with individuals who recently disclosed positive cases.
The disclosure came after the top White House spokesperson, Karine Jean-Pierre, repeatedly refused to reveal the president’s testing status, a reversal from previous practice.
In at times tense exchanges with reporters during the daily news briefing, Jean-Pierre said she did not have information about the president’s most recent test, but also would not commit to disclosing it. The White House press secretary said only that Biden was tested weekly or as necessary as determined by his doctor.
“If he were a close contact as defined by the CDC, we would update his cadence accordingly and share that with you transparently. If he is a close contact, we will share that with you,” she said.
Although Jean-Pierre told reporters Biden was tested “weekly,” at one point saying it was just once a week, the source told NBC News the president had in fact been tested twice this week, as is routine.
The president hosted the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles a week ago, during which he held a number of both formal and informal meetings with counterparts from throughout the hemisphere. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday — three days after the conclusion of the summit and four days after holding a bilateral meeting with Biden — that he had tested positive for Covid-19. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who attended the summit, also tested positive on Monday. The White House said neither had been in close contact with the president.
The National Institutes of Health announced on Wednesday that the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, had also tested positive.
In the past, the White House proactively disclosed when Biden had been tested for Covid-19. Jean-Pierre’s predecessor, Jen Psaki, also quickly shared the date of Biden’s most recent test during her press briefings, as recently as May 4.
The White House, and before his inauguration the Biden campaign, has gone to great lengths to ensure the president is not exposed to Covid-19, even as public masking guidance has evolved and even White House protocols have relaxed somewhat.
Still, Biden was unmasked during most of the summit events, and at other recent public White House functions. Neither the campaign nor the White House has ever publicly indicated he has tested positive at any point.
Asked Thursday if Biden had ever tested positive before, Jean-Pierre answered: “Not that I know of,” she said. “We would share that. I think that is something we would share.”