Biden Feeling Better as He Seeks to Show He Is Still Working Despite Covid


WASHINGTON — President Biden said on Monday that he was feeling better and sleeping through the night again as he recovered from Covid-19, and he expressed hope that he could return to work in person by the end of the week.

Mr. Biden, who has been participating in meetings virtually from the White House residence, where he is isolating, told reporters via a video feed that his medical tests had been positive and that he expected to recover fully.

“I’m feeling great,” he said in response to questions after presiding over a virtual discussion of pending semiconductor legislation with industry and labor leaders. “I’ve had two full nights of sleep all the way through. Matter of fact, my dog had to wake me up this morning.”

Mr. Biden, wearing a dark suit and tie, sounded a little froggy, coughed several times as he spoke and was not at his most energetic self, but nonetheless appeared to be in relatively good condition in the video feed. At 79, he is in a high-risk category for Covid, but he has been vaccinated and boosted and his doctors have been treating him with Paxlovid, a drug that has been successful at combating symptoms of the coronavirus.

The president’s appearance came several hours after the White House physician reported that Mr. Biden’s symptoms “have now almost completely resolved.” At this point, Mr. Biden is reporting only a residual runny nose and “minimal hoarseness,” according to the latest daily memo issued by Dr. Kevin C. O’Connor, the president’s doctor. “He is experiencing no shortness of breath at all,” Dr. O’Connor wrote.

The White House, sensitive to questions of age and health for the oldest president in American history, has been eager to show Mr. Biden still performing his duties despite his illness. He participated in two virtual meetings on Monday, delivering taped video remarks to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives conference and then joining the semiconductor event.

Mr. Biden told reporters that he started his workday at 9:30 a.m. and expected to finish by around 6:30 p.m. “I’m not keeping the same hours, but I’m meeting all my requirements that’s come before me and made decisions on a whole range of topics as well,” he said. He said he anticipated holding a telephone call with President Xi Jinping of China in the next few days and hoped to be back in the office “by the end of this week.”

“So far, everything’s good, everything’s on the button,” he said. “So I’m feeling better today. I still have this little bit of a sore throat and a little bit of a cough, but it’s changing significantly.”

“I think I’m on my way to full recovery, God willing,” he added.

The White House has said Mr. Biden would not resume in-person duties until he isolated for five days and then tested negative, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Tuesday would be his fifth day, meaning he could be tested again on Wednesday and in theory then return to the office, although doctors would recommend he keep wearing a mask. C.D.C. guidelines advise against travel for 10 days.

But the White House once again refused to make Dr. O’Connor available for questions in the briefing room as past administrations have when a president was ill. White House officials denied that Mr. Biden ordered the doctor not to appear in person or that Dr. O’Connor resisted, but offered no clear explanation about who made the decision or why.

Instead, the White House dispatched Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House coronavirus coordinator, to brief reporters, even though he has not treated the president. Dr. Jha urged Americans to make sure they get their shots. “Most deaths are happening in people who are not up-to-date with their vaccines,” he said. “And it is critical that people get out and get vaccinated.”

Dr. Jha said none of the 17 people deemed to have had close contact with the president while he might have been contagious had tested positive as of Monday morning. While the C.D.C. advises against contact with others while isolating, the president has had White House residential staff and Secret Service agents nearby and probably had help setting up the video appearances he has made since being diagnosed.

But Dr. Jha said the White House was trying to limit interaction and make sure that anyone helping Mr. Biden keeps masked and as distant as possible. “The footprint around the president has been small and really limited to the most essential people,” he said. During his video appearances, however, Mr. Biden has not been masked.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, defended the decision not to have Dr. O’Connor answer questions, noting that the president had responded to reporters during the video event. “You’ve had eyes on him, you’ve asked questions, you’ve heard from us and we’re going to continue to give that information as well,” she said.

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