Los Angeles Times

Biden works despite COVID

- BY SEUNG MIN KIM, WILL WEISSERT AND CHRIS MEGERIAN Kim, Weissert and Megerian write for the Associated Press.

WASHINGTON — COVID-19 symptoms left President Biden with a raspy voice and cough as he met Friday via videoconfe­rence with his top economic team. But the president tried to strike a reassuring tone, declaring, “I feel much better than I sound.”

Later Friday, White House officials told reporters that Biden was working more than eight hours a day. His appetite hadn’t diminished — he showed off an empty plate with some crumbs when speaking with his advisors — and he signed bills into law and took part in his daily intelligen­ce briefings, albeit via phone.

“He’s still doing the job of the president,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “That does not end.”

The messages were all part of an effort by the administra­tion to depict a president who had not relinquish­ed his day job, despite testing positive for the coronaviru­s Thursday and being sent into isolation at the White House residence.

As he beamed into a virtual meeting from the Treaty Room, Biden took off a mask and sipped water as he began discussing the decline in gas prices in recent weeks.

Reporters were allowed to view a few minutes of the proceeding­s and, when they asked how Biden was feeling, he flashed a thumbs-up — although he was audibly hoarse and coughed a few times.

The president’s doctors said he was improving from mild COVID symptoms and was responding well to treatment. Biden received his presidenti­al daily security briefing via a secured phone call while, separately, Chinese President Xi Jinping wished him a “speedy recovery.”

Biden had an elevated temperatur­e of 99.4 on Thursday, but that went down with Tylenol, according to a note from Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the president’s personal physician. Biden also used an inhaler a few times but has reportedly not experience­d shortness of breath.

Biden completed his first full day of Paxlovid, the antiviral therapy treatment meant to reduce the severity of COVID, and his primary symptoms were a runny noise, 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 he has continued to work at a brisk pace,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinato­r, told reporters.

Jha said Biden would remain in isolation in the White House living quarters for five days and then be retested. 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 photograph­er who captured the images of Biden in the residence.

Once Biden tested positive Thursday — after more than two years of successful­ly dodging the virus — the White House sprang into action, aiming to dispel any notion of a crisis and to turn his diagnosis into what Chief of Staff Ron Klain said he hoped would be a “teachable moment.”

The White House released a photo Friday of Biden, masked and tieless, in the Treaty Room of the president’s residence, on the phone with his national security advisors.

After the economic team meeting, he participat­ed in a separate meeting with senior White House advisors to discuss legislativ­e priorities. Jha said his hoarse voice might actually be a sign that he is improving rather than the alternativ­e.

Jean-Pierre said 17 people were determined to have been in close contact with Biden when he might have been contagious, including members of his senior staff and at least one member of Congress. None had tested positive as of Friday, she said.

Among Biden’s close contacts was his wife, First Lady Jill Biden. Her spokesman Michael LaRosa said she had tested negative for COVID-19 on Friday morning in Wilmington, Del., and had not shown any symptoms. LaRosa said she had spoken with the president “multiple times” as he remained in isolation.

Another close contact was Vice President Kamala Harris, who participat­ed in a National Urban League luncheon Friday and was spotted hugging participan­ts, although she was seated more than six feet from others during the event. She wore a mask as she headed onto the stage but took it off during the luncheon.

The administra­tion is trying to shift the narrative from a health scare to a display of Biden as the personific­ation of the idea that most Americans can get COVID and recover without too much suffering and disruption if they’ve gotten their vaccinatio­ns and taken other important steps to protect themselves.

Jha said, “This virus is going to be with us forever,” as he echoed Biden’s message that Americans should get vaccinated and boosted.

The overall message was meant to alleviate any concerns about Biden’s health — at 79, he’s the oldest U.S. president ever.

Jha said Friday that it would probably take until next week for sequencing to determine which variant of the coronaviru­s Biden had contracted. Omicron’s highly contagious BA.5 subvariant was responsibl­e for 78% of new COVID-19 infections reported in the U.S. the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest data, released Tuesday.

Jean-Pierre has repeatedly bristled at suggestion­s the Biden administra­tion wasn’t being much more forthcomin­g with informatio­n about the president’s illness than that of his predecesso­r, Donald Trump.

Still, the White House has declined repeated requests to make Dr. O’Connor directly available to reporters.

The former president contracted COVID-19 in the fall of 2020, before vaccines were available, and was hospitaliz­ed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three nights.

 ?? Andrew Harnik Associated Press ?? PRESIDENT BIDEN, in isolation at the White House since his positive coronaviru­s test Thursday, reassures advisors and the media in a video meeting Friday as his staff worked to minimize concerns about his health.
Andrew Harnik Associated Press PRESIDENT BIDEN, in isolation at the White House since his positive coronaviru­s test Thursday, reassures advisors and the media in a video meeting Friday as his staff worked to minimize concerns about his health.

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