President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19, something the White House had taken extra steps to avoid as highly transmissible strains struck top aides, Cabinet members and the vice president.
Biden is experiencing “very mild” symptoms and is taking the antiviral drug Paxlovid, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
While Biden’s vaccinations should protect him against serious illness, the infection is a blow to the administration’s efforts to show the president is on top of the pandemic that has disrupted the country for more than two years.
Still, the White House had acknowledged that Biden could catch the virus as the president balanced potential risks with a return to regular activities.
“I wouldn’t say it’s just a matter of time,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said on April 26 after Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive. “But, of course, it is possible that the president, like any other American, could get COVID.”
Biden has urged Americans to get vaccinated and to get their booster shots, stressing that those who are protected can feel safer.
“There will be positive cases in every office, even here in the White House,” Biden said in December when omicron was surging in Washington as he announced new measures to combat the pandemic.