WASHINGTON (AP) — US President Joe Biden is ending his COVID-19 isolation after testing negative for the virus on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday.
Biden’s physician announced the developments in a letter the White House released Wednesday.
“Yesterday evening and then again this morning, he tested NEGATIVE for the SARS-CoV-2 virus by antigen testing,” presidential physician Kevin O’Connor wrote in a memorandum, adding that Biden had already completed a course of the Paxlovid therapeutic.
“Given these reassuring factors, the President will discontinue his strict isolation.”
Biden was scheduled to appear in the Rose Garden around midday Wednesday.
The US leader had been isolated in his White House residence since testing positive for the coronavirus last Thursday.
He has been carrying out his full duties, but observed a lighter schedule during his recovery.
While now out of isolation, the president will wear a mask for 10 days when around others and continue to test regularly for the virus in case of a “rebound,” O’Connor said.
Biden has no fever, the doctor added, noting “his symptoms have been steadily improving, and are almost completely resolved.”
At 79, Biden is the oldest person ever in the US presidency, but his physician says he is generally in good health. He has been fully vaccinated and received two booster shots against the coronavirus.
Biden’s infection came days after a visit to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia late last week, during which he met Prime Minister Yair Lapid and other top Israeli and Palestinian officials. Lapid was quick to wish Biden a full and speedy recovery “on behalf of the people of Israel.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week that Biden was experiencing “very mild symptoms” and was taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug designed to reduce the severity of the disease.
When administered within five days of symptoms appearing, Paxlovid, produced by drugmaker Pfizer, has been proven to bring about a 90-percent reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.
Biden’s previous ability to avoid the virus seemed to defy the odds, even with the testing procedures in place for those expected to be in close contact with him. Prior US waves of the virus swept through Washington’s political class, infecting US Vice President Kamala Harris, cabinet members, White House staffers and lawmakers. Biden has increasingly stepped up his travel schedule and resumed holding large indoor events where not everyone is tested.
During his Middle East tour, Biden replaced the traditional handshake with fist bumps, which experts have said does nothing to reduce the chance of infection.
Biden is far from the first world leader — and not the first US president — to get the coronavirus, which has infected British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and more than a dozen other leaders and high-ranking officials globally.
When Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, contracted the disease in October 2020, it was a far different time. Vaccines were not available and treatment options were limited and less advanced. After being diagnosed with COVID-19 at the White House, Trump was given an experimental antibody treatment and steroids after his blood oxygen levels fell dangerously low. He was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three days
While much of the world has resumed normal rhythms after the early lockdowns to control spikes in cases and deaths, the virus still serves as a disrupter in daily life as people are forced to change plans, isolate and calculate the risks of taking part in various activities.