WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden tested positive for Covid on Thursday and is experiencing “mild symptoms,” the White House said in a statement.
Biden, 79, is being treated with the antiviral Paxlovid and is fully vaccinated and twice boosted, the statement said. White House Covid coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said Biden is tired, has a runny nose and a dry cough. Jha said Biden felt fine when he went to bed, but didn’t sleep well.
Biden canceled a planned event for Thursday in Pennsylvania due to his diagnosis but sought to portray a sense of business as usual as he isolated in the White House residence.
In a video released Thursday afternoon, the president is seen standing on the balcony of the White House residence in a blazer and collared shirt.
“I’m doing well, getting a lot of work done, going to continue to get it done,” Biden said. “And in the meantime, thanks for your concern, and keep the faith. It’s going to be okay.”
The White House said Biden made phone calls to members of Congress and White House staff by phone Thursday morning, and will participate in planned meetings via Zoom. Biden will isolate for at least five days and then leave isolation once he has received a negative test, Jha said.
“He sounded great,” Jha said during a press briefing. “I asked him, Mr. President, how are you feeling? He said, ‘I’m feeling fine.’ He said he was feeling fine, had been working all morning. He hadn’t even been able to finish his breakfast because he had just been busy.”
Biden’s positive case was detected as part of a regularly scheduled test. Following his test, Biden shared that he had started experiencing symptoms last night, Jha said.
“This morning, he got his routine tests that he does, and then when Dr. O’Connor probe him further on symptoms because he tested positive. That’s when he mentioned, yeah that maybe I was a little tired last night, so I really think his symptoms, you can say either began late last night, early this morning,” Jha said.
The White House residence has been reduced to essential staff only, while President Biden isolates there, a White House official told NBC News. In the video of Biden, where he is unmasked outside, he was placed more than six feet away from the camera operator who was wearing an N95 mask, said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Biden’s last known negative Covid test was July 19, according to the White House. The following day, he traveled to Massachusetts for a climate change event. Jean-Pierre said Biden wasn’t tested before he went to the Massachusetts event because he has a regular testing schedule and wasn’t experiencing symptoms until last night.
During a wave of infections in Washington earlier in the year, the White House warned that it was a possibility Biden would get Covid at some point but said that he had a level of protection from his vaccinations and access to antiviral treatments shown to greatly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.
“We knew this was going to happen,” said Jean-Pierre. “As Dr. Jha said, when he was, when he joined me at the briefing, in the briefing room not too long ago, he said … everyone was, at some point, everyone’s going to get Covid.”
The positive test comes days after Biden returned from a trip overseas where he was in close contact with a number of leaders in Israel and the Middle East. Ahead of the trip, White House officials said Biden would be minimizing contact as a Covid precaution, but during public engagements, Biden was seen shaking hands and embracing officials and was seen without a mask during indoor meetings.
First lady Jill Biden is considered a close contact and is following CDC guidance on wearing a mask and social distancing, her spokesman said. The first lady said the president is “doing fine” and that she tested negative.
“My husband tested positive for Covid, I talked to him just a few minutes ago, he’s doing fine,” the first lady said Thursday ahead of an education event in Detroit. “He’s feeling good. I tested negative this morning. I am going to keep my schedule.”
Biden’s doctor, Kevin O’Connor, said in a letter that Biden received a positive antigen test as part of a routine screening and the test was later confirmed by a more sensitive PCR test. He said Biden started experiencing a dry cough Wednesday evening.
“The President is fully vaccinated and twice-boosted, so I anticipate that he will respond favorably, as most maximally protected patients do,” O’Connor said in the letter.
The White House said it will provide a daily update on the president’s status, and inform all close contacts, including members of Congress who interacted with him at the event Wednesday.
Vice President Kamala Harris was traveling to North Carolina on Air Force Two at the time Biden’s positive test was announced. During remarks at a community computer lab in Charlotte, Harris said that Biden “is in good spirits. He is feeling well, he is doing well.”
Covid cases along with hospitalizations have been increasing across the United States, driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 variant, which recently became the dominant strain in the country.
Biden is the second sitting U.S. president to get Covid after his predecessor Donald Trump had to be hospitalized with an infection in 2020 before the availability of the vaccines. Former President Barack Obama also tested positive for Covid in March.
Biden is the most high profile of scores of Washington officials who have contracted the virus this year, including Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.