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President Biden not at risk of serious COVID-19 illness, White House says

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President Biden not at risk of serious COVID-19 illness, White House says
Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, speaks with Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room on Thursday. President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms, according to a White House statement. Photo by Ting Shen/UPI | License Photo

July 21 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden is taking an antiviral and isn't expected to have serious illness after testing positive for COVID-19, White House officials said in a briefing Thursday.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters that Biden is fully up to date on his vaccines and has been prescribed Paxlovid to treat the virus.

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"Because the president is fully vaccinated, double boosted, his risk of serious illness is dramatically lower," he said during a White House briefing. "Our expectation is that he's going to have mild illness."

Since taking office in January 2021, Biden has been tested for COVID-19 regularly but has never turned up a positive result before Thursday.

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"This morning, President Biden tested positive for COVID-19," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. "He is fully vaccinated and twice boosted and experiencing very mild symptoms.

"He has begun taking Paxlovid. Consistent with CDC guidelines, he will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time," she added.

Biden posted a video on Twitter saying he's "doing great" and continuing to work.

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"Keep the faith," he said. "It's going to be OK."

The White House said Biden has been in contact with staffers by phone and will participate in planned meetings via phone and web meetings. He will continue to work in isolation until he tests negative, per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Biden's travel has been cancelled for at least the next five days. He was supposed to travel to eastern Pennsylvania on Tuesday to announce his Safer America Plan.

"Out of an abundance of transparency, the White House will provide a daily update on the president's status as he continues to carry out the full duties of the office while in isolation," Jean-Pierre said.

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"The president's last previous test for COVID was Tuesday, when he had a negative test result."

The White House released a letter from presidential physician Dr. Kevin O'Connor Thursday that said, "President Biden is currently experiencing mild symptoms, mostly rhinorrhea (or 'runny nose') and fatigue, with an occasional dry cough, which started [Wednesday] evening."

O'Connor said he expects Biden will "respond favorably" to the antiviral drug Paxlovid, "as most maximally protected patients do."

Biden tested positive in an antigen test and O'Connor said the result was confirmed by Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, testing. Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday, the White House said.

First lady Jill Biden, who is considered a close contact of the president, has also tested negative for the virus. Spokesman Michael LaRosa said she's going forward with plans to travel to Michigan and Georgia on Thursday, but will wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Biden is the second consecutive U.S. president to test positive for COVID-19. Then-President Donald Trump tested positive in October 2020 just before the presidential election and spent several days in the hospital.

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COVID-19 can be particularly threatening to people of advanced age, such as the 79-year-old Biden.

This week in Washington

COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha fields questions from reporters during a press briefing at the White House on Friday. Photo by Rod Lamkey/UPI | License Photo

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