Biden emerges from COVID isolation and tells public: Get your shots
President Biden emerged Wednesday from five days of isolation after contracting the coronavirus, telling Americans that “COVID isn’t gone” but noting that serious illness can be avoided with vaccines, booster shoots and treatments.
President Biden ended his COVID-19 isolation on Wednesday, telling Americans they can “live without fear” of the pandemic if they take advantage of booster shots and treatments, the protections he credited for his swift recovery.
“You don’t need to be president to get these tools to be used for your defense,” he said in the Rose Garden. “In fact, the same booster shots, the same at-home test, the same treatment that I got, is available to you.”
The pandemic has killed more than 1 million people in the U.S., and continues to disrupt daily life over two years after it began. But Biden emphasized that people are far less likely to die from the disease now despite a wave of new infections caused by a contagious variant known as BA.5, which is believed to have sickened the president.
“You can live without fear by doing what I did,” he said. “Get boosted, get tested and get treatment.”
He talked more about treatment than prevention, a sign of how the pandemic and his approach have evolved.
“Grandparents are hugging their kids and grandkids again. Weddings, birthdays, celebrations are happening in person again,” Biden said. “Let’s keep emerging from one of the darkest moments in our history.”
Weekly COVID-19 deaths doubled in Los Angeles County over the last month, to 100 from 50 a week.
Biden drew a contrast to when then-President Trump contracted COVID-19 in 2020 and was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered,” Biden said. “When I got COVID, I worked from upstairs in the White House.”
The difference, Biden said, is the availability of vaccines, treatments, and home tests for catching infections early.
It was Biden’s first in-person public appearance since he tested positive for COVID-19 last Thursday. He walked out of the White House on Wednesday wearing his trademark aviator glasses and a dark protective mask, which his doctor says he’ll continue wearing for five more days when he’s in near other people.
White House staff who had assembled in the Rose Garden applauded the president, who thanked them for their support as he finished his remarks.
“God bless you all — and now I get to go back to the Oval Office,” he said.
Biden tested negative for the virus on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, allowing him to end his isolation.
The variant that likely infected the president, BA.5, is an offshoot of the omicron strain that was first detected last year. It’s now responsible for 82% of cases in the country, and its cousin BA.4 for an additional 13%.
The summer wave of infections continues to disrupt society, particularly for people at high risk for severe disease, who are encouraged to avoid exposure in places with high rates of transmission.
The majority of people in the United States live in counties with high transmission levels; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone in those areas wear masks in indoor public spaces.
However, mask mandates have largely faded. In Los Angeles County, where face coverings are required on trains and buses, a slight slowing in cases may spare authorities from imposing an expanded mask order.
The idea of a new indoor mask mandate, which could come in days, sparks a growing debate, with some L.A. communities saying they won’t enforce it.
The latest coronavirus variants are able to evade the protection offered by vaccination, but the combination of vaccines and booster shots still lowers the risk of hospitalization and death. More than 43,000 people in the U.S. are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and about 430 die each day.
Paxlovid, an antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19, has also helped prevent more-severe illness. Biden competed a five-day course of the pills.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s physician, wrote in an update Wednesday that the president remained free of fever and had not used Tylenol in the last 36 hours.
Biden’s symptoms were almost “completely resolved,” O’Connor reported.
“Given these reassuring factors, the president will discontinue his strict isolation measures,” the doctor wrote.
By all accounts, Biden had a mild bout with the virus. O’Connor consistently reported that the president’s vital signs remained strong, and his temperature only briefly became elevated. He suffered from a runny nose, cough, sore throat and some body aches.
However, the infection was disruptive. Biden canceled a trip to Pennsylvania, where he was going to detail his crime prevention plans and speak at at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser, and skipped a long weekend at his home in Delaware.
First Lady Jill Biden went without him while Biden isolated in the White House residence. With many voters already concerned about Biden’s age — he turns 80 in November — his aides emphasized that he was working despite his illness.
With new COVID-19 boosters expected later this year, health experts urge Californians not to put off a first or second booster shot until then.
They released photos of him talking on the phone, and he had virtual meetings with advisors. His voice was hoarse and he coughed through a conversation on Friday, but showed significant improvement after the weekend.
“I’m not keeping the same hours, but I’m meeting all my requirements that have come before me,” Biden said Monday.
Although presidents benefit from household attendants, Biden’s infection brought a few unglamorous glimpses of life with COVID-19.
Shortly before 7 a.m. on Monday, he said, he felt “the nuzzle of [his] dog’s nose against [his] chest.”
“My wife’s not here; she usually takes him out,” he said of Commander.
The young German shepherd also interrupted a meeting on Tuesday by barking in the background.
Get our Essential Politics newsletter
The latest news, analysis and insights from our politics team.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.