President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, joining millions of other Americans—including his own vice president—who have contracted the illness since the coronavirus pandemic first began more than two years ago.
Biden, who at 79 is the oldest person to ever serve as president, has been vaccinated and doubly boosted against the virus that has claimed nearly one million American lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found triple vaccination greatly reduces the risk of hospitalization.
But as an elderly man with a history of brain aneurysms, Biden could face a particular risk of potential complications from the illness.
The White House said that Biden, who has been fully vaccinated and twice boosted, is experiencing “very mild symptoms,” and stated that he would work from his private quarters. The president has been prescribed Paxlovid, a medication approved for treating COVID-19 infection.
“He has been in contact with members of the White House staff by phone this morning, and will participate in his planned meetings at the White House this morning via phone and Zoom from the residence,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement released to the public on Thursday morning. “Consistent with White House protocol for positive COVID cases, which goes above and beyond CDC guidance, he will continue to work in isolation until he tests negative. Once he tests negative, he will return to in-person work.”
The president’s positive test result comes several months after Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for the virus, and as the repeal of mask mandates and vaccination requirements across the country have corresponded with a national rise in cases. The infections are the latest, and highest profile, cases within the federal government since a superspreader event at the Gridiron Club dinner in early April and after the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner resulted in numerous cases among White House staff, journalists and government officials.
Harris experienced no symptoms after testing positive on April 26. Her spouse, Douglas Emhoff, came down with a case in March but recovered.
Biden’s positive test marks the first time that he has come face to face with the virus that has largely shaped his time in office—and his time pursuing it. Biden spent the better part of 2020 virtually campaigning from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, nearly entirely avoiding large crowds and unmasked contact with untested individuals in direct contrast with his predecessor, President Donald Trump, who openly flouted coronavirus guidelines.
Trump, who frequently undercut his own scientific advisors and whose musings about the virus varied from facially absurd to openly racist, was hospitalized with COVID-19 after also testing positive while in office, suffering a case that was much more serious than initially reported. Vaccines had not yet been approved at the time, however.
The Biden White House, clearly mindful of the immense distrust sowed by the prior administration’s coordinated attempts to hide the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis and the severity of his illness, pledged on Thursday to keep Americans as up-to-date on Biden’s condition as possible.