By ZEKE MILLER and JOSH BOAK – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 again on Saturday, just over three days after being cleared to leave coronavirus isolation, the White House said, in a rare case of “rebound” after treatment with an antiviral drug.
White House physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor said in a letter that Biden “has not experienced any new symptoms and is still feeling pretty well.” O’Connor said, “There is no reason to restart treatment at this time.”
In accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Biden will be re-isolated for at least five days. He’ll be in isolation at the White House until he tests negative. The agency says most rebound cases remain mild and no serious illness has been reported during that time.
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Much like when Biden first tested positive, the White House tried to show that he was still at work. The president posted a photo of himself, masked and taped, on Twitter, signing a statement adding individual aid to flood survivors in Kentucky.
The president then tweeted a 12-second video of him on a White House balcony with his dog, Commander.
“I’m fine, everything is fine,” Biden said, holding aviator sunglasses. “But the commander and I have some work to do.”
The president also took the time on Saturday to have a FaceTime interview with people camping outside the Capitol who seek health benefits for military veterans exposed to toxins from fire pits while on duty, according to the White House Chief of Staff. Ron Klain. A bill to provide extended benefits was not approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough brought the group pizza and telephone line to talk to the president.
“Feel better,” a member of the group told Biden in a… video of the call posted to Twitter. Later, in a tweet, the president said he planned to meet families at the Capitol, but his positive test “got in the way.”
Biden’s positive test — he had been negative Friday morning — came just two hours after the White House announced a presidential visit to Michigan next Tuesday to highlight approval of a bill to boost domestic high-tech manufacturing. Biden was also scheduled to visit his home in Wilmington, Delaware, Sunday morning, where First Lady Jill Biden stayed while the president was positive. Both trips have been canceled as Biden has returned to isolation.
Biden, 79, was treated with the antiviral drug Paxlovid after he first tested positive on July 21. He tested negative for the virus last Tuesday and Wednesday. He was then allowed to leave the isolation while wearing a mask indoors. His positive tests put him in the minority of those prescribed the drug to experience a rebound case of the virus.
dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 coordinator, told reporters on Monday that the data “suggests that between 5 and 8 percent of people have a rebound” after treatment with Paxlovid.
Recognizing the potential for so-called ‘rebound’ COVID positivity seen in a small percentage of patients treated with Paxlovid, the president increased his tested cadence, to protect those around him and prevent early detection of any recurrence of viral replication,” O’ Connor wrote in his letter.
O’Connor cited negative tests for Biden from Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning, Thursday morning and Friday morning, ahead of Saturday morning’s positive result from antigen testing. “This basically represents ‘rebound’ positivity,” he wrote.
According to the CDC, those with rebound COVID must be isolated for at least five days, ending when a fever has cleared for 24 hours without medication and symptoms have improved. The patient “must wear a mask for a total of 10 days after rebound symptoms start. Some people continue to test positive after day 10, but are significantly less likely to shed infectious virus.”
Both the Food and Drug Administration and Pfizer point out that 1% to 2% of people in Pfizer’s original study of Paxlovid saw their virus levels rise again after 10 days. The percentage was about the same among people taking the drug or the dummy pills, “so it’s unclear at this point whether this is related to drug treatment,” the FDA said.
While Biden tested negative, he returned to holding in-person indoor events and meetings with White House staff and wore a mask, consistent with CDC guidelines. But the president took off his mask indoors when making comments on Thursday and when meeting with CEOs at the White House complex.
Asked why Biden appeared to be violating CDC protocols, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “They were socially distanced. They were far enough apart. So we made it safe for them to be together, to be on that podium. .”
Regulators are still studying the prevalence and virulence of rebound cases, but the CDC warned doctors in May that it was reported within two to eight days of the initial negative test for the virus.
“Limited information currently available from case reports suggests that individuals treated with Paxlovid who experienced COVID-19 rebound have had mild illness; there are no reports of serious illness,” the agency said at the time.
When Biden was initially released from isolation on Wednesday, O’Connor said the president would “raise his test cadence” to accommodate a potential rebound from the virus.
Paxlovid has been proven to significantly reduce serious illness and death among those most vulnerable to COVID-19. US health officials have encouraged those who test positive to see their doctor or pharmacist to see if they should receive the treatment, despite the rebound risk.
Biden is fully vaccinated, having received two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shortly before taking office, an initial booster shot in September and an additional dose on March 30.
While patients who have recovered from previous variants of COVID-19 generally have high levels of immunity against future reinfection for 90 days, Jha said the BA.5 subvariant that infected Biden appeared to be more “immune-avoidant.”
“We have seen many people reinfected within 90 days,” he said, adding that officials have no data yet on how long those recovering from the BA.5 strain are protected from reinfection.
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