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Biden’s COVID suite: back on the balcony, pet dog

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WASHINGTON — It’s back to the White House balcony and treaty room for President Joe Biden as he deals with a “rebound” case of COVID-19.

Trapped in the White House for the second time in as many weeks, the president knows the drill this time: he has an office in the residential section of the White House and his dog Commander to keep him company while he governs. by Zoom and FaceTime.

This time brought a new wrinkle: a “successful” counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan, carried out with Biden’s permission while he was in solitary confinement.

On Monday evening, he was due to deliver an address to the American people from the balcony of the Blue Room to announce the killing of Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda’s top leader, in a US strike in Afghanistan carried out in weekend class, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

Biden’s initial diagnosis of COVID-19 left him with a persistent cough and runny nose, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. His second rebound case – so labeled because he tested positive on Saturday just three days after being released from solitary with two negative tests last Wednesday – has left him nervous about returning to a normal schedule .

Biden’s rebound case interrupted a planned Sunday trip to his home in Wilmington, Delaware, to reunite with first lady Jill Biden, who has been squatting separately since Biden’s initial diagnosis, as well as a Tuesday trip to Michigan to brag about the recently surpassed $280 billion. technology manufacturing invoice.

Instead, Biden is stuck in COVID-19 isolation until at least Thursday, under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and possibly longer under stricter White House protocols. who require a negative test to return to work.

“He’s someone who enjoys being out there with the American people,” Jean-Pierre said Monday. “He can’t wait to be there again.”

Where Biden’s first round with COVID-19 kept him from exercising for a few days, White House physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor said in a Monday letter that the president ” keep feeling good” this time around, even though he tested positive.

Shortly after Saturday’s announcement that he was to return to solitary confinement, the president tweeted a photo of himself in a mask and without a tie, showing him signing a statement that added one-on-one assistance to survivors. flooding in Kentucky.

The president followed up by tweeting a 12-second video of himself on a White House balcony with Commander.

“I feel good, everything is fine,” Biden said, a pair of aviator sunglasses in hand. “But Commander and I have a little work to do.”

Minutes later, he called Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough on FaceTime, who was visiting people camping outside the U.S. Capitol in a bid to secure health benefits for veterans exposed to substances. poisons from combustion fireplaces during their service.

Biden, on Twitter, said he had planned to visit the group in person on Capitol Hill on Saturday before testing positive again, but instead sent McDonough off with a pizza delivery. He invited the lawyers to the White House once he was cleared by his doctors to receive visitors.

“That doesn’t stop him from doing his job and doing the job of the American people,” Jean-Pierre said of the president’s rebound infection.

During his isolation journey, Biden told reporters that his canine companion serves as his wake-up call while the first lady is away.

“Actually, my dog ​​must have woke me up this morning,” he said last Tuesday. “My wife is not here. She usually takes it out in the morning while I’m training upstairs. And so, I felt that snout of my dog’s nose against my chest about five to seven.

Biden worked in the ornate second-story Treaty Hall or stepped out onto the adjacent Truman Balcony overlooking the South Grounds and the Washington Monument.

A limited number of essential staff are around him in the residence, including security and medical staff and a small number of aides, who remain masked for their protection. Biden’s usual in-person meetings, including his daily national security briefing, have shifted to virtual formats, from traditional phone calls to secure video conferencing.

The Treaty Hall has served as a study for several presidents. It was Donald Trump’s workspace in the White House residence and he had set up a large flat-screen TV on which to watch cable news.

Plans to allow a president to work in isolation were first drawn up when Trump tested positive for COVID-19 in October 2020, requiring him to seek treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. As the highly infectious omicron variant spread and cases closed around Biden, his administration refined plans for Biden to carry out his duties while self-isolating at the White House, two aides say. .

Biden, 79, was treated with the antiviral drug Paxlovid after first testing positive on July 21. He tested negative for the virus last Tuesday and Wednesday July 26 and 27, and was later allowed to leave solitary confinement while wearing a mask inside. His positive tests put him among the minority of those prescribed the drug to experience a rebound case of the virus.

The CDC says most rebound cases remain mild and no serious illness during rebound infection has been reported.

Jean-Pierre said the 17 people initially identified as close contacts of Biden when he first tested positive, plus six people deemed to be at risk for his rebound infection, all continued to test negative for COVID-19.

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