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Biden Learns to Live With the Risks of the Coronavirus


WASHINGTON — One after one other, President Biden hugged and kissed them.

At a packed ceremony within the East Room of the White House on July 7, Mr. Biden bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on 16 Americans, some of their 80s or 90s. After reaching around to hold the medal on their necks, the president embraced most of them, shook hands with a number of and gave three a smooch on the cheek.

It is very unlikely that Mr. Biden — who tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday — became infected with the coronavirus during that event. However the proven fact that the celebration happened in any respect underscores how much the White House has dropped a lot of the extraordinary measures it once employed to guard the commander in chief from a disease that has killed multiple million Americans.

Within the early days, Mr. Biden was a president in a bubble, governing the country mostly by Zoom contained in the Oval Office. He rarely traveled. He held few in-person meetings. And a lot of the ceremonial trappings of the office — just like the medal ceremony — were canceled or postponed, victims of the lockdowns that were deemed vital to stop the spread.

But like many other Americans, Mr. Biden has loosened up in recent months. Protected by multiple doses of the vaccine, the president and his aides have modified their risk assessments and have begun to live with the coronavirus.

“Whatever your thing is — whether it’s being the president of the US, going to high school, going to work, doing the stuff you enjoy, being with who we love — it may well’t be delay endlessly,” said Andy Slavitt, who advised the White House on its Covid-19 response early within the Biden administration.

Mr. Slavitt said Covid-19 has turn out to be a disease that “comes around as ceaselessly as a standard cold but with rather more severe consequences. It’s a rather more uncomfortable middle state for people to regulate to.”

Contained in the West Wing, there was never much doubt that Mr. Biden would eventually contract the disease. By this week, most of the people around him already had: Vice President Kamala Harris; Jen O’Malley Dillon, his deputy chief of staff; Karine Jean-Pierre, his press secretary; several cabinet members, including the attorney general; Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman; and Jen Psaki, his former press secretary — twice.

On Friday, Mr. Biden’s physician said his symptoms had improved. The president had a temperature of 99.4 degrees late Thursday evening, in line with Dr. Kevin O’Connor, in a letter released on Friday. He wrote that Mr. Biden was still experiencing a runny nose and fatigue, and that he had an “occasional nonproductive, now ‘loose’ cough.”

“His voice is deeper this morning,” Dr. O’Connor wrote. “His pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation remain entirely normal, on room air.”

The deeper tone in Mr. Biden’s voice was noticeable on Friday, when he participated by video in a briefing on declining gas prices. Mr. Biden cleared his throat multiple times during his remarks and could possibly be heard coughing.

Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the coordinator for the administration’s Covid-19 response, said that Mr. Biden’s temperature of 99.4 on Thursday was not considered a low-grade fever by the White House and that it fell “inside the traditional range.” He added, nevertheless, that he was unaware of Mr. Biden’s temperature recorded Friday morning. The White House referred to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that states an individual is taken into account to have a fever “when she or he has a measured temperature of 100.4 degrees” or feels warm to the touch.

But in his letter, Dr. O’Connor indicated that he didn’t feel that the president’s temperature of 99.4 was normal until after it responded to Mr. Biden taking Tylenol. Dr. Jha said in a while Friday that it was routine for doctors to report the best temperature of their patients, even when it was not a fever.

“He did mount a temperature yesterday evening to 99.4°F, which responded favorably to acetaminophen (Tylenol),” Dr. O’Connor wrote. “His temperature has remained normal since then.”

Dr. Jha said Dr. O’Connor didn’t prescribe the Tylenol for the temperature, but slightly for Mr. Biden’s “discomfort.” Dr. Jha declined to say what discomfort the president was experiencing. Officials have said he doesn’t have a sore throat or a headache, and haven’t indicated he has other aches and pains.

The White House went to great lengths this week to indicate that Mr. Biden’s work life had not been dramatically affected by his diagnosis.

The White House Twitter account posted three photos of the president working at a desk within the White House residence. In a single, he may be seen talking on the phone. In one other, he’s signing a law designed to offer people more access to baby formula.

Mr. Biden was elected in no small measure because he persuaded voters to trust that he could bring the pandemic under control and reopen the country.

Within the last 18 months, Mr. Biden has achieved much of that goal. Due to the widespread availability of vaccines and coverings, most communities have reopened stores, bars, sporting venues and schools. There are few mask mandates still in place.

Mr. Biden now travels abroad (he shook hands with quite a few world leaders during a visit last week to Israel and Saudi Arabia). He holds political events across the country, flying on Air Force One and riding within the motorcade. And in-person events on the White House are a weekly occurrence again.

However the pandemic will not be over.

In accordance with the C.D.C., a lot of the country is now classified as areas with high community transmission. The newest Omicron subvariant to turn out to be dominant, BA.5, is vastly more contagious than the unique coronavirus, though doctors say the vaccines remain effective at stopping hospitalization and death.

So Mr. Biden has to walk a careful line, demonstrating that he’s identical to every other American desperate to be done with Covid-19, at the same time as he keeps his eye on the likelihood that the pandemic could come roaring back.

The White House tried to do this on Friday by utilizing the president’s diagnosis as a case study for why Americans should get vaccinated and boosted.

“We’re in a much, a lot better place than where we were 18 months ago, when the president took office,” Dr. Jha said, adding that the present level of about 400 Covid-19 deaths per day was “unacceptable.” He also added a grim warning.

“This virus,” he said, “goes to be with us endlessly.”

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