In this image provided by the White House, President Joe Biden speaks with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., on the phone from the Treaty Room in the residence of the White House on July 21, 2022, in Washington. Biden says he's "doing great" after testing positive for COVID-19. (ADAM SCHULTZ / THE WHITE HOUSE VIA AP)
WASHINGTON – Joe Biden, the oldest person ever to serve as president of the United States, is experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19, and will continue working but in isolation, the White House said on Thursday.
Biden, 79, has a runny nose, fatigue and an occasional dry cough, symptoms which he began to experience late on Wednesday, White House physician Kevin O'Connor said in a note released on Thursday. Biden has begun taking the antiviral treatment Paxlovid, O'Connor said.
Fully vaccinated and twice boosted, Biden said he was "doing well" in a video posted on his Twitter account. In the 21-second clip, he also said he was "getting a lot of work done" and would continue with his duties.
A photograph on his Twitter account showed him smiling, wearing a blazer and sitting at a desk with papers.
READ MORE: Biden tests positive for COVID-19
White House COVID coordinator, Dr Ashish Jha, said Biden's oxygen levels were normal and the president would isolate for five days and return to public events once he had a negative COVID test.
Biden became ill at a time when his administration is grappling with soaring inflation, global supply challenges, mass shootings and Russia's special military operation in Ukraine.
His illness forced cancellation of a trip to Pennsylvania where Biden intended to lay out plans to ask Congress for $37 billion for crime prevention programs.
White House COVID coordinator said Biden's oxygen levels were normal and that he would isolate for five days and return to public events once he had a negative COVID test
The White House provided an unusually detailed account of the president's morning activities, including a series of phone calls to political allies, and said people who had come into close contact with Biden were being told of his illness.
Vice President Kamala Harris was in close contact with Biden on Tuesday, a White House official said. Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, told MSNBC he was as well, but he said that so far no one linked to the president's case had tested positive.
The Pfizer Inc antiviral drug Paxlovid that Biden is taking has been shown to reduce the risk of severe disease by nearly 90 percent in high risk patients if given within the first five days of infection. But it has in some cases been associated with rebound infections, in which patients improve quickly and test negative after a five-day course of the drug, with symptoms returning days later.
At Biden's last physical in November 2021, doctors reported that the president has atrial fibrillation, a common irregular heartbeat for which he takes Eliquis, a drug designed to prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Jha said Biden will stop taking Eliquis and the statin Crestor while on his Paxlovid treatment to avoid a negative interaction between the drugs.
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Washington not immune
Multiple members of Biden's administration and other senior figures in Washington have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent months, including Harris and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of whom have since tested negative and resumed working.
In this image from video released by the White House, President Joe Biden speaks in from the White House in a video released on July 21, 2022, in Washington after testing positive for COVID-19. (THE WHITE HOUSE VIA AP)
While many Americans have moved on from the strict precautions of the pandemic's early months, returning to offices and schools and resuming summer travel, the virus has been spreading rapidly.
A month before he lost the 2020 presidential election to Biden, Donald Trump contracted the virus. He, his wife Melania and other White House staff contracted it after an event for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett in September 2020.
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More than 1 million people have died from COVID in the United States. Most of those deaths, some 600,000, happened after Biden took office in January 2021 at the peak of a major wave of the disease.
'Get vaccinated now’
Biden set up strict COVID-19 safety protocols at the White House, urged Americans to take the virus seriously and campaigned for everyone to get fully vaccinated.
He is tested regularly for the disease and anyone who meets with him or travels with him is tested beforehand, the White House has said. Biden had last tested negative on Tuesday.
He has stopped wearing a mask at public events in recent months, and the White House dropped its mask requirement ahead of his March 1 State of the Union address.
Asked by Reuters on Wednesday what the country should do with COVID cases on the rise, Biden encouraged vaccination for those who had yet to get the vaccine.