WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden held a celebratory speech in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, marking his return to the Oval Office less than a week after testing positive for COVID-19.
Biden used the event to encourage Americans to keep updated on their COVID-19 boosters, to test for the virus using the free rapid tests available from the federal government and to access treatments, including Paxlovid, which he took while sick.
“You can live without fear by doing what I did — get boosted, get tested and get treatment,” Biden said.
The president’s personal physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, wrote in a letter Wednesday morning that Biden would “discontinue his strict isolation measures” after completing five full days of isolation and testing negative on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
“His symptoms have been steadily improving, and are almost completely resolved,” O’Connor wrote.
Biden will increase his “testing cadence” to watch for so-called “rebound” COVID-19 that has affected a small percentage of patients who have taken Paxlovid, according to O’Connor.
Biden plans to wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days anytime he is around people to reduce the possibility he could spread the virus to others, including White House staff, members of the Secret Service, or those who work in the residence.
During his Rose Garden speech, Biden stressed that all Americans have access to the same COVID-19 vaccinations, at-home tests and treatments he received as president.
He encouraged anyone over the age of 50 who hasn’t gotten a booster dose this year to do so, and asked anyone under the age of 50 who has never received a booster dose to get another COVID-19 shot.
Biden urged people who feel sick or have symptoms to take a test to find out if they have COVID-19 and for them to isolate if they have the virus.
Biden also called on Congress to provide additional funding to ensure the next generation of vaccines will become available free of charge to all Americans later this year — and so that the federal government can continue providing free masks and at-home antigen tests.
“To my friends in Congress, let’s keep investing in these tools — vaccinations, treatments, tests and more — so we can keep making them available to the American people on a permanent basis,” Biden said, clarifying that by permanent basis, he meant “as long as they are needed.”
The White House in March requested U.S. lawmakers approve $22.5 billion in emergency spending to continue providing testing, treatments and vaccines both domestically and abroad.
Congressional negotiators have twice reached bipartisan agreements to provide a portion of that funding, though neither agreement has reached the floor for votes.