President Biden's COVID-19 Diagnosis Explained

On Thursday morning, the White House announced that President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19, according to ABC News. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that President Biden had tested negative on Tuesday, prior to a trip to Somerset, Mass., to address climate change. Now, Biden is experiencing mild symptoms and has been taking Paxlovid, which is the standard treatment for anyone over the age of 50 or considered to be at higher risk for adverse effects of COVID (via NPR).

President Biden has been fully vaccinated and boosted twice, getting his last booster shot just one day after it was authorized for people over the age of 50 in March 2022. Jean-Pierre said that Biden will continue to fulfill his duties from the White House in isolation, contacting his staff by phone and attending scheduled meetings via Zoom. While Biden's administration took a very cautious approach to COVID in 2021, many of those precautions faded in 2022 with large gatherings and public tours resuming. However, staffers are still required to get tested before meetings with the president, as well as wear masks and remain six feet away from him during meetings.

What a COVID-19 diagnosis at Biden's age means

Despite President Biden's vaccination status, developing COVID-19 at his age poses a significant increase in risk of severe illness (via NPR). At 79 years old, Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults over the age of 50 are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. This can mean hospitalization, ventilation, intensive care, and even death. The risk increases in your 60s, 70s, and 80s, with those over 85 at most risk for becoming seriously ill.

Vaccination can help prevent these risks, as those who are over the age of 65 and fully vaccinated have exhibited a 94% reduced risk of COVID-related hospitalization. However, the risk of developing long COVID still increases for those over 65 despite vaccination status, according to the CDC.

If President Biden's health seriously deteriorates, he could invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution and temporarily transfer power to Vice President Kamala Harris (via NPR). He did this for a little more than an hour in November 2021, when Harris served as acting president while he underwent anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy.