US NEWS: Biden, who is energetic but coughing up COVID, will make a virtual appearance at the White House meeting

WASHINGTON, July 23 – U.S. President Joe Biden made a virtual appearance at a meeting of White House economic advisers on Friday to highlight his good health a day after testing positive for COVID-19.

Biden appeared energetic and in good spirits but with a significantly deeper voice as he spoke in a remote meeting about the White House’s efforts to lower gas prices, hours after his doctor issued a statement that his symptoms had improved.

“I feel a lot better than I sound,” he said, apologizing for an occasional cough as he described recent efforts to lower gasoline prices. “Gas prices are going down. In fact, gas prices have been going down every day,” he said.

Seated at a table in the White House residence and flanked by a bag of Halls cough drops and a box of tissues that was quickly removed before his remarks began, Biden gestured when reporters asked him how he was feeling.

Biden, 79, tested positive for COVID on Thursday as the White House said he had mild symptoms and would continue to work but in isolation. His diagnosis comes as a highly contagious subvariant of the coronavirus is driving a new wave of cases in the United States.

A letter released from White House physician Kevin O’Connor said Biden reached 99.4 F (37.4 C) Thursday evening but responded favorably to Tylenol and was breathing normally.

“His voice is deeper this morning. His pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation remain normal on room air,” O’Connor said. Biden has a cold, fatigue, and occasional dry cough, the doctor said.

At the Friday afternoon briefing, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha pointed out that the reading of 99.4 F was the highest Biden had experienced during his illness. Jha noted that Biden’s vital signs remained in the normal range, but acknowledged that the president has used an inhaler a few times since testing positive.

Overall, Jha said Biden was doing better, noting that he slept well and ate breakfast and lunch. “He joked that he regretted that his appetite had not changed,” Jha said, adding that the president “was and is in very good spirits.”

On Friday, as the White House sought to convey a sense of normalcy, it also released another photo of Biden signing the bill a day earlier wearing a black mask.

“The president said he still works over eight hours a day,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at the daily briefing.

O’Connor said two medications Biden is taking, Eliquis for atrial fibrillation and the cholesterol drug Crestor, are being temporarily suspended to avoid interfering with his treatment cycle of the antiviral drug Paxlovid. He said low-dose aspirin is being added to Biden’s treatment as an alternative blood thinner.

“The president is tolerating the treatment well,” he said.

Biden, who is the oldest person ever to serve as president of the United States, is scheduled to hold a total of three virtual meetings on Friday with his staff, including his economic, legislative, and national security advisers, according to his public schedule released by the White House.

He started experiencing typical symptoms of COVID and was immediately put on Paxlovid as soon as he was diagnosed with the virus.

Fully vaccinated and twice boosted, Biden said he was “doing well” in a video posted on his Twitter account Thursday. He also said in the 21-second clip that he “has a lot of work to do” and will continue with his duties.

Jha said it is still unclear where exactly Biden, who recently returned from a trip to the Middle East, contracted the coronavirus.

Jha also said at a briefing Friday afternoon that the White House medical unit had identified and notified 17 of Biden’s close contacts, including senior staff members, and said none of the staff had yet tested positive.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of COVID cases in the US increased by more than 25% in the past month as the new BA.5 subvariant took hold there around the world.

Biden had planned to travel to his home state of Delaware this weekend, but first lady Jill Biden, who has so far tested negative, will instead stay there while the president self-isolates at the White House.

US Vice President Kamala Harris also had a negative test.

Paxlovid, the Pfizer Inc ( PFE.N ) antiviral drug the president takes, has been shown to reduce the risk of serious illness by nearly 90% in high-risk patients when given within the first five days of infection, but also in some cases associated with rebound infections.

Even with strong antivirals and vaccines, a small percentage of older people end up in the hospital.

However, health experts noted that Biden appears to be in relatively good health for his age, which was reflected in the president’s physical condition at the end of 2021.

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