WASHINGTON — One after one other, President Biden hugged and kissed them.
At a packed ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 7, Mr. Biden bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on 16 Americans, some of their 80s or 90s. After reaching round to dangle the medal on their necks, the president embraced most of them, shook fingers with just a few and gave three a smooch on the cheek.
It is extremely unlikely that Mr. Biden — who examined optimistic for Covid-19 on Thursday — grew to become contaminated with the coronavirus throughout that occasion. But the incontrovertible fact that the celebration occurred in any respect underscores how a lot the White House has dropped most of the extraordinary measures it as soon as employed to defend the commander in chief from a illness that has killed multiple million Americans.
In the early days, Mr. Biden was a president in a bubble, governing the nation largely by Zoom inside the Oval Office. He hardly ever traveled. He held few in-person conferences. And most of the ceremonial trappings of the workplace — like the medal ceremony — have been canceled or postponed, victims of the lockdowns that have been deemed essential to cease the unfold.
But like many different Americans, Mr. Biden has loosened up in latest months. Protected by a number of doses of the vaccine, the president and his aides have modified their danger assessments and have begun to dwell with the coronavirus.
“Whatever your thing is — whether it’s being the president of the United States, going to school, going to work, doing the things you enjoy, being with who we love — it can’t be put off forever,” mentioned Andy Slavitt, who suggested the White House on its Covid-19 response early in the Biden administration.
Mr. Slavitt mentioned Covid-19 has change into a illness that “comes around as frequently as a common cold but with much more severe consequences. It’s a much more uncomfortable middle state for people to adjust to.”
Inside the West Wing, there was by no means a lot doubt that Mr. Biden would ultimately contract the illness. By this week, many of the individuals round him already had: Vice President Kamala Harris; Jen O’Malley Dillon, his deputy chief of employees; Karine Jean-Pierre, his press secretary; a number of cupboard members, together with the legal professional basic; Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman; and Jen Psaki, his former press secretary — twice.
On Friday, Mr. Biden’s doctor mentioned his signs had improved. The president had a temperature of 99.4 levels late Thursday night, in accordance to Dr. Kevin O’Connor, in a letter launched on Friday. He wrote that Mr. Biden was nonetheless experiencing a runny nostril and fatigue, and that he had an “occasional nonproductive, now ‘loose’ cough.”
“His voice is deeper this morning,” Dr. O’Connor wrote. “His pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation remain entirely normal, on room air.”
The deeper tone in Mr. Biden’s voice was noticeable on Friday, when he participated by video in a briefing on declining fuel costs. Mr. Biden cleared his throat a number of instances throughout his remarks and might be heard coughing.
Dr. Ashish Ok. Jha, the coordinator for the administration’s Covid-19 response, mentioned that Mr. Biden’s temperature of 99.4 on Thursday was not thought-about a low-grade fever by the White House and that it fell “within the normal range.” He added, nonetheless, that he was unaware of Mr. Biden’s temperature recorded Friday morning. The White House referred to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that states an individual is taken into account to have a fever “when he or she has a measured temperature of 100.4 degrees” or feels heat to contact.
But in his letter, Dr. O’Connor indicated that he didn’t really feel that the president’s temperature of 99.4 was regular till after it responded to Mr. Biden taking Tylenol. Dr. Jha mentioned afterward Friday that it was routine for medical doctors to report the highest temperature of their sufferers, even when it was not a fever.
“He did mount a temperature yesterday evening to 99.4°F, which responded favorably to acetaminophen (Tylenol),” Dr. O’Connor wrote. “His temperature has remained normal since then.”
Dr. Jha mentioned Dr. O’Connor didn’t prescribe the Tylenol for the temperature, however somewhat for Mr. Biden’s “discomfort.” Dr. Jha declined to say what discomfort the president was experiencing. Officials have mentioned he doesn’t have a sore throat or a headache, and haven’t indicated he has different aches and pains.
The White House went to nice lengths this week to present that Mr. Biden’s work life had not been dramatically affected by his prognosis.
The White House Twitter account posted three pictures of the president working at a desk in the White House residence. In one, he may be seen speaking on the cellphone. In one other, he’s signing a legislation designed to give individuals extra entry to child formulation.
Mr. Biden was elected in no small measure as a result of he persuaded voters to belief that he may deliver the pandemic beneath management and reopen the nation.
In the final 18 months, Mr. Biden has achieved a lot of that purpose. Because of the widespread availability of vaccines and coverings, most communities have reopened shops, bars, sporting venues and colleges. There are few masks mandates nonetheless in place.
Mr. Biden now travels overseas (he shook fingers with quite a few world leaders throughout a visit final week to Israel and Saudi Arabia). He holds political occasions round the nation, flying on Air Force One and driving in the motorcade. And in-person occasions at the White House are a weekly incidence once more.
But the pandemic just isn’t over.
According to the C.D.C., most of the nation is now categorized as areas with excessive neighborhood transmission. The newest Omicron subvariant to change into dominant, BA.5, is vastly extra contagious than the authentic coronavirus, although medical doctors say the vaccines stay efficient at stopping hospitalization and loss of life.
So Mr. Biden has to stroll a cautious line, demonstrating that he’s identical to each different American keen to be carried out with Covid-19, at the same time as he retains his eye on the risk that the pandemic may come roaring again.
The White House tried to do this on Friday through the use of the president’s prognosis as a case examine for why Americans ought to get vaccinated and boosted.
“We’re in a much, much better place than where we were 18 months ago, when the president took office,” Dr. Jha mentioned, including that the present stage of about 400 Covid-19 deaths per day was “unacceptable.” He additionally added a grim warning.
“This virus,” he mentioned, “is going to be with us forever.”