WASHINGTON – Joe Biden isn’t the first U.S. president to contract COVID-19. That dubious honor goes to his predecessor, Donald Trump.
But this time, things are different.
Biden is fully vaccinated and boosted. When Trump tested positive in fall 2020, vaccines weren’t available and treatment options were limited.
Trump was given an experimental antibody treatment and steroids after his blood oxygen levels fell dangerously low. He was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three days.
Death rates have fallen sharply since Trump contacted the virus, primarily because of the arrival of vaccines and advances in treatments. More than 1 million Americans have died from the virus, which is still killing an average of 353 people in the U.S. every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The unvaccinated are at far greater risk, over two times more likely to test positive and nine times more likely to die from the virus than those who have received at least a primary dose of vaccine, according to the public health agency.
Biden is experiencing mild symptoms and is taking Paxlovid, an at-home antiviral therapy that has been available since December for patients who are 12 and older and are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
“It remains to be seen what’s going to happen with President Biden,” Dr. Jerome Adams, who was surgeon general when Trump contracted the virus, told USA TODAY, “but he is in a much better situation based on all the data we have available to come out of this with little to no harm in the long run.”
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Transparency on diagnosis
The Biden White House appears to have been far more transparent about Biden’s positive diagnosis than Trump and his aides were after he tested positive.
After months of downplaying the severity of the virus, Trump announced his positive test result on Twitter just before 1 a.m. on Oct. 2, 2020.
His chief of staff, Mark Meadows, later revealed in a book that Trump had actually tested positive days earlier – on Sept. 26, three days before a presidential debate with Biden. Trump tested positive on the same day he held a Rose Garden ceremony in which he announced he would nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Meadows wrote.
Trump subsequently took another test and got a negative result, Meadows wrote. He tested again on Oct. 1 and tweeted about the positive test result early the next day.
The White House never disclosed Trump’s initial positive test. And Trump denied that he was sick before the presidential debate, calling the report “fake news.”
Biden officials, on the other hand, had been raising the possibility for weeks that he could eventually contract the virus. He tested positive Thursday morning, shortly before his diagnosis was announced, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
A few hours later, the White House released a 21-second video in which Biden reassured the nation.
“It’s going to be OK,” he said.
Jean-Pierre was emphatic about the differences between administrations at Thursday’s briefing: “We are doing this very differently – very differently … I would argue – than the last administration.”
Jean-Pierre said that she and COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha have not seen the president because they are following CDC guidance while he isolates.
“We believe getting direct information, pretty much detailed information, from this letter that we – in a transparent way – shared with all of you on how he was doing, and we have committed to do that every day.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden, Trump both got COVID. Vaccines, treatment, transparency differ