WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 again Saturday, slightly more than three days after he was cleared to exit coronavirus isolation, the White House said, in a rare case of “rebound” following treatment with an anti-viral drug.
White House physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor said in a letter that Biden “has experienced no reemergence of symptoms, and continues to feel quite well.”
Biden must remain in isolation for at least five days according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines. According to the agency, most cases of rebound disease are mild. No severe illness has been recorded during this time.
Word of Biden’s positive test came just two hours after the White House announced a presidential visit to Michigan this coming Tuesday to highlight the passage of a bill to promote domestic high-tech manufacturing. Biden was also scheduled to visit Wilmington, Delaware on Sunday morning. This is where Jill Biden, first lady, has been living while Biden was feeling positive. Biden is now back in isolation and both trips were cancelled.
Biden, who is 79 years old, received treatment with Paxlovid (an anti-viral medication) and was subsequently tested positive on Tuesday and Wednesday for the virus. The doctor cleared Biden to go home after he was able to wear a mask indoors and leave the isolation unit. He was among the few who were able to pass the positive test and is now eligible for the medication in the event of a second case.
Biden tested negative while he was in the White House. He continued to hold indoor meetings and in-person events, and was still wearing a mask according to CDC guidelines. However, the President removed the mask from indoors during his remarks and during meetings with White House CEOs.
Asked why Biden appeared to be breaching CDC protocols, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “They were socially distanced. Both were too far apart. So we made it safe for them to be together, to be on that stage.”
While regulators continue to study the frequency and virulence, rebound cases are being reported by doctors within two- to eight days of initial tests negative.
“Limited information currently available from case reports suggests that persons treated with Paxlovid who experience COVID-19 rebound have had mild illness; there are no reports of severe disease,” the agency said at the time.
When Biden was initially released from isolation on Wednesday, O’Connor said the president would “increase his testing cadence” to catch any potential rebound of the virus.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told reporters on Monday that “the clinical data suggests that between 5 and 8 percent of people have rebound” after Paxlovid treatment.
Paxlovid was shown to dramatically reduce death rates among COVID-19-affected individuals. U.S. officials encourage those with positive results to talk to their doctor or pharmacist to determine if the treatment should be recommended, even if there is a rebound risk.
Biden is now fully vaccinated. He received two doses Pfizer Coronavirus vaccine in the weeks before his election. The first dose was September. An additional shot March 30.
While patients who have recovered from earlier variants of COVID-19 have tended to have high levels of immunity to future reinfection for 90 days, Jha said that the BA.5 subvariant that infected Biden has proven to be more “immune-evasive.”
“We have seen lots of people get reinfected within 90 days,” he said, adding that officials don’t yet have data on how long those who have recovered from the BA.5 strain have protection from reinfection.
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