President Biden on Wednesday touted the importance of vaccinations and his administration’s progress in fighting the coronavirus pandemic as he emerged from isolation after testing negative for COVID-19.
In remarks from the Rose Garden, Biden acknowledged that the coronavirus is here to stay and that many Americans will likely contract the virus regardless of how many precautions they take. But he rattled off a list of safeguards that are now widely available that can make cases mild, like his was.
“Here’s the bottom line: When my predecessor got COVID, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he fully recovered. When I got COVID, I worked from upstairs of the White House in the offices upstairs for the five-day period,” Biden said.
“The difference is, vaccinations of course. But also, three new tools, free to all and widely available,” he added.
Biden pointed to free and widely available vaccinations and booster shots to guard against the virus. He also highlighted more accessible rapid testing to identify cases, as well as the emergency approval and distribution of Paxlovid, an antiviral pill that is used to treat cases of COVID-19.
Biden, who is 79 and at higher risk for a serious case of the virus, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and has been isolating since. He has made virtual appearances and answered questions from reporters on his health on Monday.
While his voice was hoarse at times and he intermittently coughed during those appearances, his doctor said his symptoms remained mild throughout his isolation, with periodic body aches and a runny nose.
“My symptoms were mild, my recovery was quick, and I’m feeling great. The entire time I was in isolation, I was able to work,” Biden said Wednesday.
The president was infected with the BA.5 variant of the virus, which is a strand of the highly contagious omicron variant that become dominant last winter. The subvariant has led to a spike in infections in the U.S. and other countries.
“The reality is that BA.5 means many of us are still going to get COVID even if we take the precautions,” Biden said. “That doesn’t mean we’re doing anything wrong. Unfortunately COVID is still with us, as it has been for two and a half years.”
Dozens of staffers and officials gathered in the Rose Garden for the president’s remarks, which he gave from a podium on a step outside the Oval Office, distanced from the first row of people gathered.
Biden came out of the White House alone, wearing a mask, to cheers from aides in the crowd. He took off his mask when he got to the podium and thanked his team for the well wishes during his isolation. Biden is expected to wear a mask when around others for the next 10 days.
Officials present for the president’s remarks included top economic adviser Brian Deese, infrastructure law coordinator Mitch Landrieu, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
The White House physician said in a memo earlier on Wednesday that Biden twice tested negative for COVID-19– once on Tuesday evening and again Wednesday morning on a rapid antigen test, after completing a five-day course of the antiviral treatment Paxlovid.
Paxlovid has increased the chances of a so-called “rebound” case where patients test positive again shortly after testing negative. As a result, Biden will be tested more frequently in the coming days, his doctor said.
In the meantime, Biden said Wednesday he looked forward to getting back to his normal work routine out of isolation. He turned around after wrapping his remarks and walked into the Oval Office alone.
“God bless you all, and now, I get to go back to the Oval Office,” he said to cheers from staff.