US President Joe Biden celebrated his recovery from COVID-19 on Wednesday with an appeal to Americans to get vaccinated and a comparison of his mild symptoms and work-from-home performance to the more serious case experienced by his predecessor.
Biden, who is 79, ended his isolation period from COVID-19 after testing negative on Tuesday evening and again on Wednesday morning. During remarks to staff and reporters at the White House, he said he recovered without fear thanks to good care and readily available medicine.
Biden won the 2020 presidential election in part on a promise to take the pandemic more seriously than former President Donald Trump, whose own COVID case in the middle of the election campaign resulted in a trip to the hospital.
"My symptoms were mild, my recovery was quick and I'm feeling great. The entire time I was in isolation I was able to work, to carry out the duties of the office without any interruption. It's a real statement on where we are in the fight against COVID-19," Biden said.
Biden remains fever-free and is no longer taking acetaminophen (Tylenol), his physician, Dr Kevin O'Connor, said in a memo released earlier by the White House. The president had mild symptoms including cough, sore throat and body aches since his initial positive test last Thursday.
"His symptoms have been steadily improving, and are almost completely resolved," O'Connor said.
Biden, who could potentially face Trump again in the 2024 election if both men run and win the nomination of their respective parties, made reference to his former opponent's fate.
“Here’s the bottom line: When my predecessor got COVID, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Centre. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered," Biden said. "When I got COVID, I worked from upstairs in the White House - in the offices upstairs - for the five-day period. The difference is vaccinations, of course."
Biden has overseen the rollout of vaccines developed under Trump's tenure and urged Americans to get inoculated and consider wearing masks as a new wave of the Omicron BA.5 subvariant of the coronavirus sweeps across the United States.
Biden wore a mask on his way to the Rose Garden and took it off for his remarks there. He will wear a mask for 10 full days when he is around others, O'Connor said, mindful of potential exposure to Secret Service personnel and White House staff who are in close proximity to him.
O'Connor said Biden would be tested regularly to watch for a potential "rebound" COVID-19 case of a sort experienced by some patients who have been treated with Paxlovid, the drug the president received.
The White House has been eager to show Biden at work during his convalescence. He held virtual events from the White House residence on multiple days and did video remarks on the first day he tested positive to reassure Americans that he was OK.
"Now, I get to go back to the Oval Office," Biden said at the end of his remarks on Wednesday to cheers from White House staff.