Biden is learning to live with the risks of the coronavirus

WASHINGTON – One after another, President Biden hugged them and kissed them. In a crowded ceremony in the East Room of the White House...

WASHINGTON – One after another, President Biden hugged them and kissed them.

In a crowded ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 7, Mr. Biden awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, out of 16 Americans, some in their 80s or 90s. After reaching out to hang the medal around their necks, the president kissed most of them, shook hands with a few -ones and gave three a peck on the cheek.

It is very unlikely that Mr Biden – who tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday – was infected with the coronavirus during this event. But the fact that the celebration took place underscores the extent to which the White House has abandoned many of the extraordinary measures it once employed to protect the commander-in-chief from a disease that has killed more than a million Americans.

At first, Mr. Biden was a president in a bubble, governing the country mostly by Zoom from inside the Oval Office. He rarely traveled. He held few face-to-face meetings. And most of the ceremonial trappings of the office – like the medal ceremony – have been canceled or postponed, victims of lockdowns deemed necessary to stop the spread.

But like many other Americans, Mr. Biden has slacked off in recent months. Protected by multiple doses of vaccine, the president and his aides changed their risk assessments and began living with the coronavirus.

“Whatever your thing — whether it’s president of the United States, going to school, going to work, doing the things you love, being with who we love — it can’t be put off forever,” he said. said Andy Slavitt, who advised the White House on its Covid-19 response early in the Biden administration.

Mr Slavitt said Covid-19 has become a disease that “occurs as frequently as a cold but with much more serious consequences. It’s a much more uncomfortable intermediate state that people have to adapt to.

Inside the West Wing, there was no doubt that Mr. Biden would eventually contract the disease. This week, many around him already had: Vice President Kamala Harris; Jen O’Malley Dillon, his deputy chief of staff; Karine Jean-Pierre, his press officer; several cabinet members, including the Attorney General; Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman; and Jen Psaki, his former publicist — twice.

On Friday, Mr Biden’s doctor said his symptoms had improved. The president had a temperature of 99.4 degrees late Thursday evening, according to Dr. Kevin O’Connor, in a letter released Friday. He wrote that Mr Biden still suffered from a runny nose and fatigue, and had an “occasional non-productive, now ‘loose’ cough”.

“His voice is deeper this morning,” Dr. O’Connor wrote. “His pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation remain completely normal on room air.”

The deeper tone of Mr. Biden’s voice was noticeable on Friday, when he took part via video in a briefing on falling gasoline prices. Mr Biden cleared his throat several times during his remarks and could be heard coughing.

Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the administration’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said Mr. Biden’s temperature of 99.4 on Thursday was not considered a mild fever by the White House and that it was “within the normal range”. He added, however, that he was unaware of Mr Biden’s temperature recorded on Friday morning. The White House mentioned guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which states that a person is considered to have a fever “when they have a measured temperature of 100.4 degrees” or are hot to the touch.

But in his letter, Dr O’Connor said he did not believe the president’s temperature of 99.4 was normal until he responded to Mr Biden taking Tylenol. Dr Jha said later on Friday that it was routine for doctors to report their patients’ highest temperature, even if it was not a fever.

“He ran a temperature last night to 99.4°F which responded favorably to acetaminophen (Tylenol),” Dr O’Connor wrote. “His temperature has remained normal since then.”

Dr Jha said Dr O’Connor did not prescribe the Tylenol for the temperature, but rather for Mr Biden’s “discomfort”. Dr Jha declined to comment on how uneasy the president felt. Officials said he had no sore throat or headache, and did not say he had any other aches and pains.

The White House has gone to great lengths this week to show that Mr. Biden’s professional life has not been dramatically affected by his diagnosis.

The White House Twitter account posted three photos of the president working at a desk in the White House residence. In one, he can be seen talking on the phone. In another, he signs a law to give people better access to formula.

Mr Biden was elected largely because he persuaded voters to believe he could bring the pandemic under control and reopen the country.

Over the past 18 months, Mr. Biden has achieved much of that goal. Due to the widespread availability of vaccines and treatments, most communities have reopened shops, bars, sports venues and schools. There are few mask mandates still in place.

Mr. Biden now travels abroad (he shook hands with many world leaders during a trip last week to Israel and Saudi Arabia). He organizes political events across the country, flying on Air Force One and being part of the motorcade. And in-person events at the White House are once again weekly.

But the pandemic is not over.

According to the CDC, most of the country is now classified as an area with high community transmission. The latest Omicron subvariant to become dominant, BA.5, is far more contagious than the original coronavirus, although doctors say vaccines remain effective in preventing hospitalization and death.

Mr Biden must therefore toe a cautious line, demonstrating that he is like every other American eager to end Covid-19, even as he keeps an eye out for the possibility of the pandemic returning with a vengeance.

The White House tried to do just that on Friday, using the president’s diagnosis as a case study for why Americans should get vaccinated and boosted.

“We are in a much better situation than 18 months ago when the president took office,” Dr Jha said, adding that the current level of around 400 Covid-19 deaths per daywas “unacceptable”. He also added a grim warning.

“This virus,” he said, “is going to be with us forever.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden is learning to live with the risks of the coronavirus
Biden is learning to live with the risks of the coronavirus
Newsrust - US Top News
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