By Seung Min Kim, Will Wissert and Chris Majorian
WASHINGTON (AP) — Symptoms of Covid-19 left President Joe Biden with a hoarse voice and a cough as he met via video conference with his top economic team on Friday. But the president tried to strike a reassuring tone, declaring, “I feel a lot better than I sound.”
Later on Friday, White House officials told reporters that Biden was working more than eight hours a day. His appetite was undiminished — as Biden showed an empty plate with a few scraps as he spoke to his advisers — and he signed bills into law and participated in his daily intelligence briefings by phone.
White House Press Secretary Karen Jean-Pierre said he was still acting president. “It doesn’t end.”
It was all part of a carefully choreographed effort by the administration to portray a commander-in-chief who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and was sent into isolation at the White House residence. Had not given up his day job.
As he joined a virtual meeting from the treaty room, Biden took off his mask and sipped water as he began to discuss gas price cuts in recent weeks. Reporters were allowed to watch a few minutes of the proceedings and, when they asked how Biden was feeling, he gave a thumbs-up — though he was audibly hoarse and coughed a handful.
The president’s doctors said his mild Covid symptoms were improving and he was responding well to treatment, as the White House worked to project an image of a president on the job despite his illness. are Biden received his presidential daily security briefing via a secure phone call while separately, Chinese President Xi Jinping wished Biden a “speedy recovery”.
According to a new note from Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the president’s personal physician, Biden had a temperature of 99.4 Fahrenheit on Thursday, but it went down with Tylenol. Biden also used an inhaler a few times but did not experience shortness of breath.
The president completed his first full day of Paxlovid, the antiviral therapy intended to reduce the severity of COVID, and Biden’s primary 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, though the White House did not release specific figures and did not commit to doing so.
“The president is feeling well enough to continue working now, and he has continued working at a brisk pace,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told reporters.
Jha said Biden will remain in isolation in the White House living quarters for five days and then be tested again. He personally plans to return to work after testing negative. As he works in isolation, the number of aides around Biden has been reduced to a “very, very small footprint,” Jean-Pierre said — including a videographer and photographer who took pictures of Biden in residence. .
Once Biden tested positive on Thursday — after more than two years of successfully avoiding the virus — the White House swung into action, aiming to dispel the perception of a crisis and turn its diagnosis into one. In which Ron Klein, Biden’s chief of staff, said he hoped. A “teaching moment.”
The White House on Friday released a photo of a masked and tieless Biden 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 advisers to discuss legislative priorities. Jha said that his hoarse voice may actually be a sign that he is improving rather than an alternative.
Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre said 17 people were in close contact with Biden when he may have been contagious, including his senior staff members and at least one member of Congress. He said that no one has tested positive so far.
One of Biden’s closest contacts was First Lady Jill Biden. He tested negative for COVID-19 in Wilmington, Delaware on Friday morning and has not shown any symptoms, his spokesman Michael LaRosa said. LaRosa said he has spoken to the president “numerous times” because he lives in isolation.
Another close connection was Vice President Kamala Harris, who attended the National Urban League luncheon on Friday and was seen hugging attendees, even though she sat more than six feet away from others during the event. She wore a veil on her way to the stage but took it off during lunch.
The administration is trying to shift the narrative from a health scare to Biden’s appearance as a reflection of the idea that most Americans can get COVID and recover without too much pain and disruption if They got their shots and took other important steps. protect yourself
“This virus will be with us forever,” Jha said, as he echoed Biden’s message that Americans are encouraged to get vaccinated.
The overall message was designed to address voters’ concerns about Biden’s health — at 79, he is the oldest person ever to become president.
Jha said Friday that it will likely take until next week to determine what strain of the virus Biden contracted. Omicron’s highly infectious BA.5 substrain is responsible for 78% of new COVID-19 infections reported in the U.S. last week, according to the latest data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jean-Pierre has repeatedly dismissed suggestions that the Biden administration has been less forthcoming with information about the president’s illness than its predecessor, Donald Trump. The former president contracted Covid-19 in the fall of 2020, before vaccines were available, and was hospitalized for three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Still, the White House has refused to make O’Connor available directly to reporters, despite repeated requests.