White House COVID chief confirms Biden has BA.5 subvariant, says he’s “feeling much, much better”

Washington— Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, confirmed on Sunday that President Biden has been infected with the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant of the coronavirus, but said the president is “doing well” as he continues to self-isolate.

“Thank God, our vaccines and therapies work well against that, which is why I think the president is doing well,” Jha said in an interview with “Face the Nation.” “I checked in with his team last night. He was feeling fine. He had a good day yesterday. He has a viral syndrome, an upper respiratory infection, and he’s doing great.”

Although Jha said he still didn’t receive updates until Sunday morning, Biden was “feeling much, much better” until Saturday night.

The White House announced last Thursday that Biden, who is 79, tested positive for COVID-19 after managing to avoid being infected for more than two years since the start of the pandemic. Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the president’s physician, said Biden started taking Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment, on Thursday and was taking Tylenol.

O’Connor said in a letter on Saturday that the president had a sore throat, runny nose, a loose cough and body aches, although his pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature were all normal.

Biden, who is vaccinated and received two booster shots, is in isolation at the White House.

Since testing positive for COVID-19, the White House has provided daily updates on the president’s health, and Jha said the administration believes it is important for the American people to be informed about Biden’s condition. If the president has “persistent symptoms” or if they interfere with his ability to carry out his duties, Jha said the White House would “release this early and often” to the public.

“But I suspect this will be a course of COVID that we’ve seen in many Americans who have been fully vaccinated, doubly boosted, being treated with these tools in hand,” he said. “You know, the president is doing well, and we hope he continues to do so.”

The BA.5 subvariant has been fueling a rise in new COVID-19 cases in several states and accounts for about 80% of infections, Jha said, although most public health officials and state and local leaders have stopped reimposing mandates. of masks.

Jha reiterated, however, that masks are an effective way to slow transmission and said it is “very prudent” for Americans to wear masks indoors, particularly in crowded places with poor ventilation.

“I think it’s a very important and effective way to reduce transmission while also protecting yourself,” he said.

In addition to continuing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization officially declared chickenpox a “public health emergency of international concern”, the highest alert level. The Department of Health and Human Services did not go so far as to declare the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency, although Jha said it is something the Biden administration “can invoke”.

“Right now, we have over 2,000 cases, but we’ve ramped up vaccines, treatments, testing, and we’ll continue to look at all sorts of policy options,” he said. “Right now, we think we can get our arms around this thing, but obviously, if we need more tools, we’ll invoke them as needed.”

Jha said ensuring the wide availability of tests for smallpox is crucial to containing the disease and said the US now has the capacity for 80,000 tests a week. There are also 300,000 vaccine doses, he said.

“The plan here is very straightforward. The plan is to get this virus out of the United States,” Jha said. “I think we can do that. We have the vaccines and the diagnostic tests. And you’re going to see more and more actions from the administration. What I will remember is that the first case was about two months ago, there was a very substantial increase in the response in the last two months, with more coming with a very specific goal, which is to eliminate the virus from the United States.”

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