Biden’s age puts him at risk for severe Covid
President Joe Biden is 79, but he has received 2 Covid booster vaccines, already started Paxlovid and is in relatively good health otherwise.
Joe Biden’s age, 79, automatically puts him at greater risk for Covid complications, but infectious disease experts expect the president — who has had two Covid booster vaccines and is in relatively good health otherwise — to recover quickly.
Biden tested positive for Covid on Thursday and has mild symptoms, including fatigue, runny nose and a dry cough, according to a letter from Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the president’s physician.
“He is a healthy 79-year-old man who has been diagnosed rapidly, who’s having mild symptoms, who’s vaccinated and is on antiviral therapy. All of us expect a good outcome,” said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of
White House Covid response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said in a briefing that the president “feels really well,” has no fever and was working all morning.
“Our expectation is that he’s going to continue to have mild illness, and he’s going to be monitored for symptoms,” he said.
President Joe Biden walks to Marine One from the Oval Office at the White House on July 8, 2022.
President Joe Biden walks to Marine One from the Oval Office at the White House on July 8, 2022.Samuel Corum / AFP via Getty Images file
Biden tested negative for Covid on Tuesday, so experts think he’s in the early stage of the illness.
“He probably got exposed over the weekend,” said Dr. Scott Roberts, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist. “The median incubation period of omicron is three days, so my guess is if his positive test was today, he probably got exposed on Sunday.”
The amount of virus in a person’s body, or viral load, is highest around when symptoms start, he said. So once Biden’s symptoms start to improve, he said, that will be a good indicator that he is on the mend.
Covid can be riskier for people ages 50 and older for several reasons, including that older adults are more likely to have underlying health issues. Vaccine protection also tends to be less robust in older people because the immune system weakens with age. Doctors will likely check Biden’s blood oxygen levels several times a day to watch for signs of pneumonia.
“That’s one of the most important things to be measured to make sure you’re not developing more serious disease down in the lungs,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
He said it’s unlikely the president will develop pneumonia because omicron tends to result in upper respiratory illness.
“The virus gets to the back of your throat and causes inflammation in those local tissues,” Schaffner said. “That irritation causes the cough, the runny nose, the sore throat.”
Get the Morning Rundown
Get a head start on the morning’s top stories.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s hoarse for a couple of days,” he added.
What’s next for Biden
Biden is taking Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment consisting of three pills taken twice daily for five days. Disease experts think the drug works better the earlier it’s administered.
New York resident tests positive for polio, first reported U.S. case in nearly a decade
Nurse diversity linked to a reduced risk of maternal health issues, study finds
“His viral load is probably already going down on the Paxlovid, and I suspect at this point he’ll probably continue to improve,” Roberts said.
A minority of people who take Paxlovid see symptoms rebound shortly after finishing the medication. They may test positive again, but experts said in those cases, the disease tends to come back milder and people usually do not develop new complications. Roberts said doctors should know if Biden experiences a Paxlovid rebound within a day or two after he stops the medication.
Jha said Biden takes Eliquis, a blood thinner, and Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering medication, both of which must be stopped during the Paxlovid treatment. Paxlovid contains a drug called ritonavir, which slows the speed at which the body breaks down medications. Statins like Crestor are processed by the liver, so a slower metabolism may lead to a buildup of the drug in the body.
Experts said there is a chance that Biden develops long Covid — symptoms that last several months or longer — but that risk is diminished by the fact that he is vaccinated, double boosted and taking an antiviral.