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President Joe Biden tests positive for COVID-19

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President Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19, the White House announced today. Biden has mild symptoms and has started taking Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment.

The news comes amid a wave of COVID-19 infections crossed the country powered by the highly portable BA.5 variant. Biden spent part of the trip yesterday, giving a speech on the Massachusetts government’s clean energy goals.

In the week before the positive test, NPR reports that the president had also “lingered for extended talks, posed for photos and gave hugs at the Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn of the White House.” During a four-day trip to the Middle East, he shook hands with leaders in the region and attended meetings and other events without wearing a mask, NPR said.

A letter from Biden’s doctor shows that his symptoms are quite mild and consist of fatigue, a runny nose and a dry cough, which began Wednesday evening.

The letter, addressed to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, says the doctor expects Biden to respond favorably to treatment with Paxlovid, as Biden is “maximally protected” — meaning he is fully vaccinated against the virus and has had two boosters.

At 79, Biden’s age puts him on increased risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19, although unvaccinated older adults are at much higher risk than the doubly-enhanced president. The White House says he will isolate himself until he tests negative, during which time he will continue to perform all of his duties in full.

Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, also tested positive for COVID-19 while in office. At the time, in 2020, there were no vaccines available. Trump was hospitalized and given experimental antibody treatment.

COVID-19 has been a determining factor in Biden’s presidency. He was released on his first full day at the office a national pandemic strategy. That plan is effectiveness is mixedcomplicated by emerging variants that have rapidly spread around the world.

Inside the White House, staffers and officials are required to test before coming into contact with the president, and meetings are socially distancing, although masks are optional. ABC News reported in April during a revival of business near the president. At the time, White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted it was possible Biden could get COVID-19, but said there were no plans to do more testing or demand masks around the president.

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