Joe Biden Tests Positive for COVID-19, White House Says

President Joe Biden has contracted COVID-19, the White House said on Thursday.

The president, who is fully vaccinated against coronavirus and has had two booster shots, is exhibiting “very minor symptoms,” according to initial reports. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden is also taking Paxlovid, a medication that works best when COVID-19 is detected early.

Biden plans to “isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully” as he recovers, Jean-Pierre said in a statement. She added:

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.

If Biden’s condition worsens, it’s possible that he may step aside from his duties temporarily, invoking the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, which allows a president’s vice president — in this instance, current Vice President Kamala Harris — to assume presidential powers. Although a rare move, other presidents have done this in the past, and Biden himself has done this in November when he was under anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy.

Biden regularly tests for coronavirus. His last test prior to his positive diagnosis was on Tuesday, according to the White House, when he tested negative.

Close contacts with the president over the past several days will be alerted to Biden’s diagnosis by the White House, including members of the press and congressional lawmakers.

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have been on an upswing lately, with case counts drastically rising over the past several weeks, likely due to the BA.5 variant of the virus, which some media are describing as “the most infectious and transmissible variant yet.” Earlier this week, more than 126,000 cases were tracked on a single day, demonstrating that the country is not out of the pandemic yet, even though many are acting like it.

Vaccinations remain the best way to guard against COVID-19. While people who have been vaccinated and boosted are still able to contract the virus, their symptoms are typically much less severe than those of people who haven’t been vaccinated.

Per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person is five times more likely to die from COVID-19 if they’re unvaccinated and contract the virus versus a person who has received a full set of vaccinations who has also tested positive. The rate is even higher for those with booster shots — among those age 50 and older who test positive for coronavirus, a person with two booster shots is nearly 24 times less likely to die from COVID-19 than an unvaccinated individual.

With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, calls for a greater response from the government may increase. Many have been clamoring for a better response for several weeks now, as vulnerable populations remain particularly susceptible to the virus.

Responding to the rise in case numbers and the lackluster government response, Truthout’s senior editor and lead columnist William Rivers Pitt struck a critical tone in an article earlier this week.

“We think we’ve paid the piper with this thing, put in our hard time and did the lifting, but we haven’t,” he said. “Not really, not yet.”