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President Biden feels well, his doctor says, as top adviser offers reassurance on Paxlovid treatment

President Biden tested negative and was able to speak Wednesday in the Rose Garden about COVID-19. But on Saturday he tested positive again.Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post

President Biden was feeling well Monday despite a continuing “rebound” COVID-19 infection, the president’s doctor said.

Biden tested positive again Monday for SARS-CoV-2 in an antigen test. He was isolating but “continuing to conduct the business of the American people.” Dr. Kevin C. O’Connor, physician to the president, said in a memo released by the White House.

Meanwhile, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator offered people reassurance Sunday that the antiviral drug, Paxlovid, that Biden took is effective, despite his rebound case.

The bottom line, Dr. Ashish Jha tweeted, is that “treatments like Paxlovid are designed to prevent serious illness. And they are doing that. Very well.”


Jha said his “best guess” is that a rebound of COVID-19, which can include a return of symptoms or just a return of positive tests, happens to about 5 percent of people.

He also said that rebound “does not seem to lead to serious illness (i.e. hospitalization, etc.) And that’s key.”

But he noted that “when you rebound, you can potentially be contagious.”

He said officials are concerned about the rebound phenomenon, but “Paxlovid is saving lives ... Therapeutics are an essential part of fighting this pandemic ... And way too many Americans are still dying of COVID.”

“Should high risk people (over 50, chronic diseases) get Paxlovid? Absolutely!” he said.

After taking a five-day course of Paxlovid, Biden tested negative Tuesday, but he became positive again Saturday morning. He posted a tweet about it Saturday afternoon.

The rebound case of the 79-year-old president has put the spotlight on a problem that has been puzzling scientists.

Paxlovid is made by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to treat mild to moderate COVID-19. Under an emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration, it’s available to people ages 12 and older who have tested positive for the coronavirus and are at higher risk of having severe illness from the disease.


The Biden administration has in recent months pushed the treatment as a tool to help the country through ongoing waves of coronavirus cases.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory in May amid concerns about rebound cases, The advisory noted that there was limited information but said no severe cases had been reported. It recommended that people who experience a resurgence of COVID-19 following treatment should again isolate for five days and wear a mask for 10 days to avoid spreading the virus.

Another prominent person who got a rebound case? Dr. Anthony Fauci, 81, President Biden’s top medical adviser for the pandemic, who contracted the virus around mid-June.

Some experts suggest a higher number of people could be getting rebound cases than Jha estimated. Catherine Bennett, a professor of epidemiology at Deakin University in Australia, told The Washington Post in an e-mail that recent data have suggested that rebound cases happen in about 10 percent of Paxlovid recipients, “so not rare, but uncommon.”

Bennett said that the public should not be concerned by rebound cases, but rather be aware that such cases are possible, and monitor themselves closely after they finish a course of Paxlovid. She advised people to recognize the signs of rebound cases - testing positive or experiencing a resurgence of symptoms - and go back to their doctor if the signs appear.


At least two teams of Boston researchers are trying to understand what might be fueling the problem, the Globe reported this spring.

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.

Martin Finucane can be reached at