Washington — President Biden said he has recovered from his bout with COVID-19 and ended his five days of isolation at the White House on Wednesday after testing negative for the coronavirus twice.
The president appeared in person for the first time since his diagnosis, touting the power of vaccines and therapeutics while comparing his relatively mild experience with the virus to former President Donald Trump's more severe case nearly two years ago.
Mr. Biden tested positive for COVID-19 last week and began a course of Paxlovid, an antiviral drug. Dr. Kevin O'Connor, physician to the president, said in a letter released by the White House that the president completed his five-day course of the treatment 36 hours before and completed five full days of isolation. He tested negative on Tuesday evening and again on Wednesday morning.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Biden said he was "feeling great" and was able to carry out his duties as president "without interruption" from the White House residence.
"I've just tested negative for COVID-19 after isolating for five days," the president said to cheers from his staff. "Thankfully, I'll now be able to turn to work in person, but I want to thank you all for your well wishes, your prayers over this past week, and the calls I've gotten. I also want to thank the medical team here at the White House for the incredible care they gave me."
The president took an opportunity to urge all eligible Americans to get vaccinated and boosted, and to be aware of what antiviral drugs they can access if they do get a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. He mentioned his predecessor's more harrowing experience with COVID-19 before vaccines were available. Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center in October 2020.
"When my predecessor got COVID, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center," Mr. Biden said. "He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered. When I got COVID, I worked from upstairs of the White House in the offices upstairs for the five-day period. The difference is vaccinations, of course, but also three new tools, free to all and widely available. You don't need to be president to get these tools to use for your defense. In fact, the same booster shots, the same at-home tests, the same treatment that I got is available to you."
Mr. Biden said he was able to get through his bout with COVID "with no fear."
"A very mild discomfort, because of these essential, life-saving tools," he said. "And guess what, I want to remind everybody, they are free, they are convenient, and they are safe, and they work."
Mr. Biden continues to be fever-free and he has stopped taking Tylenol, the White House doctor said. While he is ending his isolation in the White House residence, the president will continue to wear a mask for 10 full days when he is around other people.
It's unclear whether the president will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to avoid travel for 10 days after a positive test. The health agency's guidance advises those who have tested positive to "not travel until a full 10 days after your symptoms started or the date your positive test was taken if you had no symptoms." The president had to postpone travel plans when he tested positive last week.
The president is scheduled to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping by phone on Thursday, a source familiar with the call told CBS News.
Kristin Brown contributed to this report.