Biden was likely sickened with BA.5 subvariant of Omicron, White House says


WASHINGTON — The White House confirmed on Saturday that the strain of coronavirus that infected President Biden several days ago is likely to have been BA.5, the highly contagious Omicron subvariant now comprising most new infections in the United States.

“The president’s causative agent is most likely the BA.5 variant,” said a Saturday morning letter from the president’s personal physician, Dr. Kevin C. O’Connor. He added that confirmation, which came from preliminary genetic sequencing, “does not affect the treatment plan in any way.”

BA.5 now accounts for eight out of 10 new coronavirus cases in the United States, and although it does not make people sicker than previous variants, it spreads quickly and evades the immunity protection conferred by vaccines and prior infections.

Biden is fully vaccinated and has had two booster shots — a reminder, the White House has been at pains to point out, that inoculation remains exceptionally effective at preventing serious illness.

President Biden at his desk with a pen in hand, smiling but bemused.President Biden at his desk with a pen in hand, smiling but bemused.

President Biden, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, is seen working in this photo released by the White House. (The White House via Twitter)

The president is also taking Paxlovid, a treatment that further reduces the possibility of severe or critical illness and is being treated with Tylenol. Biden, who had asthma when he was younger, is also using an albuterol inhaler “as needed” for coughing.

O’Connor said Biden “is experiencing no shortness of breath” and will continue to use “low dose aspirin as an alternative type of blood thinner.”

“His symptoms continue to improve,” O’Connor’s letter said, describing those symptoms as a sore throat, runny nose, coughing and body aches.

“His voice remains deep,” O’Connor wrote.

Despite his COVID diagnosis this week, Biden continued to work — becoming part of the working-through-COVID dilemma that millions of others have experienced in the last two and a half years.

He was supposed to head to Pennsylvania on Thursday afternoon, then spend the weekend on the beach in Delaware. Instead, he will be isolating at the White House until at least the middle of next week.