President Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19, the White House announced on Thursday.
The president is experiencing “mild symptoms,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. He has begun taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug aimed at reducing the severity of the virus and preventing hospitalization.
Biden “will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time,” Jean-Pierre said. “He has been in contact with members of the White House staff by phone this morning, and will participate in his planned meetings at the White House this morning via phone and Zoom from the residence.”
This is the first time the president has tested positive for the virus during the entire pandemic. The latest Omicron variant, BA.5, the dominant strand nationally, is more transmissible than previous ones, and positive numbers have been rising sharply across the country in recent weeks.
Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID in April, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the Cabinet, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
First lady Jill Biden tested negative for COVID on Thursday morning, her spokesperson said. She and the president welcomed Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska at the White House on Tuesday.
Biden is fully vaccinated and received his second Pfizer booster shot on March 30. He is 79 years old and within the high-risk category for the virus, which has so far caused more than 1 million deaths and caused 89 million infections across the United States.
As the Biden administration has emphasized self-testing in recent months, the total number of cases is likely higher because at-home positive tests are rarely reported and recorded by authorities.
In February, the CDC announced that it was changing its masking guidelines, advising that most people across the nation, including in schools, did not need to wear masks in public spaces anymore.