WASHINGTON — President Biden tested positive a second time for COVID-19 on Saturday, a little over 2 days after announcing he had tested negative following his first brief bout with COVID.
“Acknowledging the potential for so-called ‘rebound’ COVID positivity observed in a small percentage of patients treated with Paxlovid [the antiviral nirmatrelvir/ritonavir], the president increased his testing cadence, both to protect people around him and to assure early detection of any return of viral replication,” White House physician Kevin O’Connor, DO, wrote in a memo Saturday to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “After testing negative on Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, and Friday morning, the president tested positive late Saturday morning, by antigen testing. This in fact represents ‘rebound’ positivity.”
“The president has experienced no reemergence of symptoms, and continues to feel quite well,” O’Connor continued. “This being the case, there is no reason to re-initiate treatment at this time, but we will obviously continue close observation.” However, because the president tested positive, he will go back into isolation, O’Connor added. Planned trips to Delaware and Michigan have been canceled.
Biden first tested positive for COVID on July 21; at that time White House officials said he was experiencing “very mild” symptoms. He began a course of Paxlovid immediately and isolated in the upstairs portion of the White House for 5 days. On Wednesday, he announced he had tested negative.
“I’ll now be able to return to work in person, but I want to thank you all for your well wishes, your prayers over this past week, and the calls I’ve gotten,” Biden said that day during a short speech in the White House Rose Garden. “I also want to thank the medical team here at the White House for the incredible care they gave me. Thankfully, my symptoms were mild. My recovery was quick, and I’m feeling great.”
Biden contrasted the course of his illness with that of former president Trump, who had to be hospitalized when he contracted the virus in October 2020. “My predecessor… had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center,” Biden said. “He was severely ill; thankfully, he recovered. When I got COVID, I worked from the upstairs of the White House for the 5-day period. The difference is vaccination, of course,” as well as booster shots, home testing, and nirmatrelvir/ritonavir, he said.
Because the Omicron BA.5 COVID variant is so transmissible, people should continue to take precautions to slow its spread, Biden said, noting that the administration has allocated billions of dollars to improve ventilation in schools and public buildings, and to make vaccines, masks, COVID tests, and antiviral treatment available free of charge. He urged people to get their COVID booster shots and to take nirmatrelvir/ritonavir if they get infected.