COVID-19 symptoms left President Biden scratchy-voiced and coughing as he met Friday by video conference with his top economic team. But the president tried to strike a reassuring tone, declaring, “I feel much better than I sound.”
Later on Friday, White House officials told reporters that Biden was working more than eight hours a day. His appetite hadn’t diminished, she held up an empty plate with a few crumbs on it when he talked to his advisers, signed bills and participated in his daily intelligence briefings, albeit by phone.
“He’s still doing the president’s job,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “That doesn’t end.”
All the messages were part of an effort by the administration to represent a commander-in-chief who had not quit his day job, even though he tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and was sent to isolation at the House residence. White.
Entering a virtual meeting from the Treaty Room, Biden removed a mask and took a sip of water as he began to speak about the drop in gasoline prices in recent weeks. Reporters were allowed to watch a few minutes of the proceedings and, when asked how Biden was feeling, he gave a thumbs up, even though he was audibly hoarse and coughed a handful of times.
The president’s doctors said he was improving from mild COVID symptoms and responding well to treatment. Biden received the presidential daily security briefing from her via a secure phone call while Chinese President Xi Jinping separately wished her a “speedy recovery.”
Biden had an elevated temperature of 99.4 on Thursday, but that was lowered by Tylenol, according to a note from Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the president’s personal physician. Biden also used an inhaler several times but he has reportedly not experienced shortness of breath.
Biden completed his first full day of Paxlovid, the antiviral therapy course meant to reduce the severity of COVID, and his main symptoms were a runny nose, fatigue and a loose cough. Other metrics, such as pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation, were normal, O’Connor said, although the White House did not release specific figures.
“The president right now feels well enough to continue working, and has continued to work at a brisk pace,” Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters.
Jha said Biden would remain in isolation in the White House compound for five days and then be tested again. He plans to return to work in person once he tests negative.
As the president works in isolation, the number of aides around him has been reduced to a “very, very small footprint,” Jean-Pierre said, including a videographer and a photographer who captured the images of Biden at the residence.
Once Biden tested positive on Thursday – after more than two years of successfully dodging the virus – the White House sprang into action, aiming to dispel any notions of crisis and turn its diagnosis into what chief of staff Ron Klain said he hoped would be a ” teaching moment.
The White House released a photo Friday of Biden, masked and without a tie, in the Treaty Room of the president’s residence, on the phone with his national security advisers. After the economic team meeting, he participated in a separate discussion with senior White House aides to discuss legislative priorities. Jha said that his raspy voice could actually be a sign that he is upgrading instead of the alternative.
Jean-Pierre said 17 people were determined to have been in close contact with Biden when he could have been contagious, including members of his senior staff and at least one member of Congress. None had tested positive as of Friday, he said.
Among Biden’s close contacts was his wife, First Lady Jill Biden. His spokeswoman, Michael LaRosa, said he tested negative for COVID-19 on Friday morning in Wilmington, Del., and had not shown any symptoms. LaRosa said he had spoken to the president “several times” while he was in isolation.
Another close contact was Vice President Kamala Harris, who participated in a National Urban League luncheon on Friday and was seen hugging participants, even though she was sitting more than six feet from others during the event. She wore a mask when she was on her way to the stage, but she took it off during lunch.
The administration is trying to change the narrative from a health scare to a showcase of Biden as the personification of the idea that most Americans can get COVID and recover without too much suffering and disruption if they have gotten vaccinated and taken other steps. important to protect
Jha said, “This virus will be with us forever,” while echoing Biden’s message that Americans should get vaccinated and get booster shots.
The overall message was crafted to ease voters’ concerns about Biden’s health: At 79, He is the oldest person to be president.
Jha said Friday that it would likely take until next week for sequencing to determine which variant of the virus Biden had contracted. by Omicron highly contagious BA.5 substrain it was responsible for 78% of new COVID-19 infections reported in the US the previous week, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Tuesday.
Jean-Pierre has repeatedly bristled at suggestions that the Biden administration was not being much more forthcoming with information about the president’s illness than his predecessor, Donald Trump. the previous president contracted COVID-19 in the fall of 2020, before vaccines were available, and it was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three nights.
Still, the White House has turned down repeated requests to make Dr. O’Connor directly available to reporters.
This story originally appeared on Los Angeles Times.