WASHINGTON — President Biden continues to “improve significantly” after testing positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, his physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, said on Sunday.
According to a letter released by Dr. O’Connor, Mr. Biden was experiencing no shortness of breath or reduced oxygen levels, and his main symptom on Sunday was a sore throat — a result of the immune response. Dr. O’Connor added that the president would continue to isolate but that he “is responding to therapy as expected.”
Officials had said the president first began experiencing symptoms — including a slight fever, a runny nose and a dry cough — on Wednesday. But on Sunday, Dr. O’Connor said those had “diminished considerably.”
During an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that BA.5 — an Omicron subvariant that now accounts for 75 to 80 percent of new coronavirus cases in the United States — caused Mr. Biden’s illness.
Dr. Jha also told ABC’s “This Week” that as of late Saturday, none of the 17 people deemed to be close contacts of Mr. Biden had tested positive for the virus.
After announcing last week that the president had contracted the virus, officials said he would isolate in the White House for at least five days as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the days since, officials have repeatedly described Mr. Biden’s symptoms as “mild” and stressed that he has been able to continue working, in no small part because of his having received all recommended vaccine doses.
“I suspect this is going to be a course of Covid that we’ve seen in many Americans who have been fully vaccinated, double boosted, getting treated with those tools in hand,” Dr. Jha said. “You know, the president has been doing well, and we’re going to expect that he’s going to continue to do so.”
Beyond the protection the vaccine offers, Mr. Biden, 79, has also received Paxlovid, an antiviral medication used to guard against severe illness. It especially protects people in high-risk categories, which includes those older than 65.
“Thank goodness our vaccines and therapeutics work well against it, which is why I think the president’s doing well,” Dr. Jha said.
Mr. Biden’s illness comes as BA.5 has caused yet another wave of infections across the United States, including among many people who are vaccinated and have recovered from a previous Covid infection relatively recently. BA.5, considered the most transmissible variant so far, has been dominant in the United States for several weeks, and since then hospitalizations from Covid have climbed more than 15 percent over the past 14 days.
While Mr. Biden’s case has so far not appeared to have greatly disrupted his work schedule, public health officials seized on the opportunity to implore those who have been infected to get the appropriate rest, and to urge those not yet vaccinated to receive the shot in order to ward off serious illness.
“It’s a reminder to everyone,” Dr. Jha said at a news conference on Thursday after the announcement about the president. “If you are over the age of 50 and if you’ve not gotten a vaccine shot in the year 2022, you need to go get one. You need to go get one now because it will dramatically improve your level of protection.”