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Biden's COVID symptoms are improving after Paxlovid treatment


President Biden continues to isolate in the White House as doctors monitor his recovery from COVID-19. The president is the most prominent person to get swept up in the rising tide of people catching the virus. We're joined now by NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Franco, thanks so much for being with us.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: And let's begin with the president. There's been an update on his health today. How's he doing?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, he's doing well. I mean, we did just get the latest letter from his doctor. And his physician, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, reports that the president's symptoms continue to improve. He still has a runny nose and a loose cough, but, you know, his primary symptoms, the doctor says, are less troublesome. He also said the president's pulse, his blood pressure and temperature remain normal. But he has - and he also has no shortness of breath.

SIMON: What kind of treatment has he been getting?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, he's been isolating for - he's going to isolate for five days. Now, this president, he's the oldest president - or oldest - he's 79 years old. And therefore, he qualifies for Paxlovid treatment, which has been somewhat of a game changer for keeping some of the more vulnerable patients out of the hospital. That's a daily treatment, and his doctors say that he will continue that full treatment. You know, Dr. O'Connor actually credited Paxlovid, you know, having the second full day of treatment, for ensuring that his most severe symptoms lessened.

You know, I'll also note that Dr. O'Connor, for the first time, said that Biden most likely does have the BA.5 variant, you know, which we've reported is highly contagious. So he's going to continue isolating. The press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said yesterday that the president still is working eight plus hours. He's having Zoom calls, Zoom meetings, one of which I was at yesterday, but that he will continue to be isolated during that time. And after five days, the White House says he will take another test. And provided it's negative, he'll return to regular activities.

SIMON: I know they've been over his contact logs. Do we know anything about how the president contracted this virus?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, we don't know much about how he contracted the virus. He was - before contracting the virus, he had just come back from a trip to the Middle East and Asia. He was then in Washington a day or two before heading to Massachusetts, where he delivered a speech and pushed his climate agenda. It was the very next morning that he tested positive for the virus. We found out that he had some, you know, - or, you know, he felt something - a tickle in his throat the night before. The White House says - told us yesterday that they have identified 17 close contacts, including senior staff. Likely, it's some of those people that were on that trip to Massachusetts. There were several photos from that day that came out with the president and staff, you know, taking photos aboard Air Force One. But they are not explaining exactly who those are, but they are getting in contact with all of them.

SIMON: Very different from when President Trump contracted COVID, isn't it?

ORDOÑEZ: No doubt about it. I mean, the former president, Donald Trump, obviously was taken to Walter Reed. His conditions were pretty serious. That's led to a lot of questions about President Biden, considering he's 79 years old. But it is a different time. The president is twice boosted. He's vaccinated, and he's obviously doing very well.

SIMON: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez, thanks so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.