President Biden to leave isolation after negative COVID tests

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WASHINGTON (NBC News) — President Joe Biden has tested negative for Covid and left isolation Wednesday after five days, using his relatively smooth recovery to make the case for more Americans to stay up to date on their vaccinations and take the antiviral Plaxlovid if they get infected.

Biden received a negative Covid test Tuesday evening and again Wednesday morning and his symptoms have almost completely resolved, White House doctor Kevin O’Connor said in a letter. As a precaution, Biden will wear a mask for 10 days when around others, O’Connor said.

In remarks delivered in the Rose Garden before heading into the West Wing for the first time in five days, Biden said that with the availability of tests, vaccines and treatments, Americans can weather a Covid infection without fear.

“Many of us are still going to get Covid, even if we take the precautions. That doesn’t mean we’re doing anything wrong,” Biden said. “Unfortunately, this Covid is still with us as it has been for two and a half years, but our fight against Covid is making a huge difference. What’s different now is our ability to protect ourselves from serious illness.”

Biden tested positive for Covid on July 21 during a routine test and was experiencing a runny nose, cough and a sore throat. He began taking the antiviral Paxlovid, a five-day course of treatment, and his doctor has said Biden’s symptoms steadily improved over that period. Biden is fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots.

"When my predecessor got Covid, he had to get a helicopter to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered," Biden said of former President Donald Trump who was infected before the availability of vaccines and antiviral treatments. "I got Covid, I worked from the upstairs of the White House in the offices upstairs for a five-day period."

"The difference is vaccinations of course, but also three new tools free to all and widely available. You don’t need to be president to get these tools used for your defense. In fact, the same booster shots the same at-home test, the same treatment that I got are available to you," Biden said.

Because a small percentage of people taking Paxlovid have a rebound of their infection once they stop taking the treatment, Biden will continue to be regularly tested for Covid, O’Connor said.

The White House has sought to use Biden’s relatively mild illness and quick recovery to encourage Americans to get vaccinated and boosted, which data shows reduces the risk of hospitalization and death. They have also encouraged people to follow Biden’s lead and start taking Paxlovid as soon as they test positive.

The White House said it is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say people infected can leave isolation after five days if their symptoms are improving and they are fever-free for 24 hours. The CDC guidelines don’t recommend a negative Covid test, which the White House says is an added precaution it is taking.

If people leave isolation after five days, the CDC says, they should wear a well-fitting mask, refrain from traveling, and avoid people at risk for severe illness for an additional five days.

“I got through with no fear,” Biden said.