US President Biden tests negative for COVID-19, will end ‘strict’ isolation

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President Joe Biden will end his isolation after twice testing negative for Covid-19, his doctor said, capping his first bout with a virus that the White House says has become more manageable thanks to vaccines and new treatments.

Biden tested negative on a rapid test Tuesday night and again Wednesday, according to a letter released Wednesday by the White House and signed by his doctor. He still has some symptoms of the disease but they’re “almost completely resolved,” the letter said.

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“Given these reassuring factors, the president will discontinue his strict isolation measures,” the White House physician, Kevin O’Connor, wrote in the letter. It wasn’t immediately clear what measures he would still take, beyond wearing a mask.

Biden will give a speech in the Rose Garden on Wednesday morning, his first in-person public appearance since testing positive the morning of July 21.

He has worked remotely from the White House residence since then. He tweeted a picture of a negative Covid test on Wednesday and said he’d return to the Oval Office.

Biden’s recovery is a milestone for the pandemic response in the US, where the virus’s death toll is more than 1 million.

The 79-year-old president has received four Covid-19 shots and was treated with Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid after he was infected, a drug shown to substantially reduce the chance of serious illness.

Biden’s symptoms included a sore throat, runny nose, fatigue and elevated temperature.

A White House official said that the infection was “mild thanks to the tools this administration has worked hard to make available to the American people.”

An upcoming address is set to discuss the progress the Biden administration has made against Covid and encourage eligible Americans to get vaccinated and boosted.

Biden will wear a mask around others for 10 days and will “be very specifically conscientious to protect staff and security who will be around him,” the letter said.

The White House has not made O’Connor available to reporters during Biden’s illness to discuss his condition or take questions.

Biden’s Paxlovid treatment course ended Monday night. Some people who take Paxlovid experience a rebound shortly after discontinuing treatment and start testing positive again, though they typically experience very mild symptoms.

White House officials have downplayed the risk that Biden will rebound, saying it’s a single-digit-percentage chance.

O’Connor wrote that Biden would “increase his testing cadence in case of a rebound.”

How much protection he now has, and for how long, against re-infection is not entirely clear.

Recovery from the BA.5 variant, which Biden’s doctor said he probably had, likely protects him for at least some time, according to Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator who has spoken to reporters about Biden’s case.

The negative tests allow him to resume some activities, though guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dictates that he should wear a mask around others, abstain from travel and fully avoid vulnerable people until August 1.

Read more: Researchers trace COVID-19 origin to sales of live animals at Wuhan seafood market

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