TAMPA, Fla. — Since March 2020, we've all lived with the novel coronavirus. But, with President Joe Biden's positive COVID-19 test, all eyes are back on the virus and how the 79-year-old commander in chief is doing.
This is the first time Biden tested positive for the virus. But, it is not the first time a sitting president has contracted COVID-19.
In Oct. 2020, former President Donald Trump tested positive. Since that time, medical advancements in treatments have continued to save lives.
"President Trump got sick before the vaccines," Dr. Michael Teng, associate professor of medicine at USF Health, said. "So, President Biden has been not only, you know, boosted; he's double boosted. And, the monoclonal antibodies that President Trump got no longer work."
Biden, 79, has "very mild symptoms" and is taking Paxlovid, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
"Because the president is fully vaccinated, double boosted, his risk of serious illness is dramatically lower. He is also getting treated with a very powerful anti-viral, which further reduces his risk of serious illness," Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said. "If you are over 50 and have not gotten the vaccine shot in 2022, you need to go get one."
Dr. Teng said getting treatment as soon as symptoms appear is critical to preventing severe disease.
"The severe COVID really comes after the virus is gone," Dr. Teng said. "The severe COVID disease is your body's inflammatory response, immune response; it doesn't have much to do with the virus at that point. And so the earlier you can get rid of all the virus, the more likely it is that the disease doesn't progress to severe COVID."
And one thing for people to remember is the virus variant we are seeing today is night and day from the original strain and smarter.
"I think what we see is this is evolution at work," Dr. Teng said. "This is real-time watching a virus evolve to get better at infecting humans. And then second, to avoid the immune response that humans are trying to mount to combat the virus."
Health officials said the vaccine is still the best defense against contracting the virus, hospitalization, and death.
"And, I think, one of the things that needs to change with the CDC guidance is that getting that the two-dose primary series is no longer considered fully vaccinated because the virus has evolved at this point to avoid the immunity," Dr. Teng said. "If you're eligible for a booster, get the booster if you're eligible for that second booster. So people above 50 definitely get the second booster."