In a video released on social media he said, “Hey folks, I guess you heard, this morning I tested positive for COVID. But I’ve been double vaccinated, double boosted. Symptoms are mild. And I really appreciate your inquiries and concerns.”
It’s unclear if the president has the highly contagious omicron variant BA.5, but infectious disease doctors say the mutant strain is causing the majority of cases right now, because of its ability to evade both natural immunity and the vaccine.
Dr. Claudia Hoyen, Director of Infection Control at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital explains how.
“With BA.5 that virus and its spike proteins have changed just enough that you’ve got the spike protein and you’ve got the antibodies trying to grab on and it can’t grab on as well because it’s not quite the same shape that it was before,” said Dr. Hoyen.
The variant is spreading so quickly that some doctors think it’s possible that most people could catch it.
Fortunately, it isn’t as deadly as other past variants.
“It’s very contagious,” said Dr. Hoyen, “But that said it doesn’t cause as severe a disease if you have prior immunity, which is great so that’s why the numbers in the ICU are low but still people are going to get infected.”
But she says there are things people can do to protect themselves and others including testing and staying home when positive.
She says masks are also a good idea for some people right now.
“If you’re in a high-risk situation or if you have someone in your house who is immunocompromised or someone who is elderly and hasn’t gotten their booster and if you’re in a crowded space indoors you can still put your mask on,” said Dr. Hoyen, who admits that she does wear her mask in high-risk situations.
She says people should still get outside and enjoy summer but also recommends vaccine boosters, particularly for the elderly and those who are immunocompromised.
Especially as we look ahead to the fall and winter and whatever else might lie ahead she says.
“There are so many things about this virus that are so different than anything we’ve experienced, I’ve been doing this 25 years, when have we had a respiratory virus that we needed to create a long haul clinic, when have we seen viruses like this cause such clotting issues,” said Dr. Hoyen, “So I think our best bet is to protect ourselves, protect those around us who are at risk and just keep up with what we need to be doing.”
President Biden is being treated with the antiviral medication Paxlovid and will return to in-person work at the White House once he tests negative for the virus.