(Headline USA) President Joe 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 with 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.”
However, in boasting of his swift recovery, he flagrantly violated the rules of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend that those testing positive for COVID with symptoms “Wear a well-fitting mask for 10 full days any time you are around others inside your home or in public.”
According to the CDC’s own isolation calculator, a patient who first tested postitive on Thursday, July 21 and exhibited symptoms of a fever should remain in isolation until Thursday, July 28 and should continue wearing a mask in public through Sunday, July 31.
The guidance also instructs indivuduals to avoid travel for the same span of time. It is unclear whether Biden intends to abide by the CDC’s recommendation.
But Biden emphasized that people are far less likely to die from the disease despite a wave of new infections caused by a contagious variant known as BA.5, which is believed to have sickened the president as well.
“You can live without fear by doing what I did,” he said. “Get boosted, get tested and get treatment.”
The fact that Biden—and several other highly vaccinated congressional Democrats—have contracted the disease and shown symptoms effectively undermined the political rhetoric that the president used just a year ago to suggest that COVID-19 was a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Instead of dealing in absolutes, however, Biden spoke more about treatment than prevention, a sign of how the pandemic and his approach has evolved after having foisted the potentially dangerous vaccine onto millions of unwilling test-subjects.
Still, his COVID demagoguery helped drive a deeper rift into the already critical political divide with his vaccine mandates, the legacy of which likely lingers in the country’s ongoing supply-chain and inflation crises.
Biden made no admission of guilt, instead taking a more upbeat approach to the use of antiviral medications like Paxlovid.
“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.”
White House staff assembled in the Rose Garden applauded Biden, 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, with its cousin BA.4 contributing another 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 where transmission is high.
The majority of people in the U.S. live in counties with high levels of spread, and in those places the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks in indoor public spaces for everyone—except Biden, evidently.
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.
More than 43,000 people in the U.S. are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and about 430 die each day.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s physician, wrote in Wednesday’s update that the president remains free of fever and had not used Tylenol in the past 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 wrote in his updates that Biden’s vital signs remained strong, and his temperature only became briefly elevated. He suffered from a runny nose, cough, sore throat and some body aches.
However, the infection was disruptive. Biden cancelled 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 family home in Delaware.
First lady Jill Biden went without him, and Biden isolated in the White House residence. With voters already concerned about Biden’s age—he turns 80 in November—his aides emphasized that he was working despite his illness.
They released photos of him talking on the phone, and Biden participated in virtual meetings with advisers. His voice was hoarse and he coughed through a conversation on Friday, but he had significantly improved 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 my dog’s nose against my chest.”
“My wife’s not here, she usually takes him out,” he said.
Then, during another meeting on Tuesday, the dog interrupted the conversation by barking in the background.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press