White House sticking to Biden’s testing protocol despite Covid scares

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Psaki was pressed repeatedly during her daily briefing on whether the president would be taking another Covid test this week, and why Biden isn’t tested daily. The questions followed second gentleman Doug Emhoff’s positive test, and then Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin’s Covid case, which on Wednesday night caused him to leave in the middle of the Irish Funds Gala, where Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were in attendance.

The positive cases and concerns about Biden’s health also come as fresh warning signs suggest another Covid wave could be coming to the U.S. cases are again rising in Europe and the Western Pacific, while U.S. wastewater data has shown higher virus levels.

States across the U.S., as well as Washington, D.C., have lifted restrictions in recent weeks as Covid cases dropped. The White House eased its mask mandate in early March.

“He was not tested today. He was tested last Sunday. Neither of these individuals were considered close contacts,” Psaki said, referring to Emhoff and Martin defending the White House testing protocol. She added that everyone is tested before meeting with the president.

“The testing modes are a little bit different around here because we are around the president of the United States and the vice president and, of course, the first lady and the second gentleman,” Psaki said. “That means, before you see the President, if you are in for a meeting or you travel with him, you are tested. And everyone has different testing cadences, depending on their frequency of seeing him.”

Psaki referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of a close contact, in explaining Biden’s not testing after the positive cases this week. A close contact is “anyone who was less than 6 feet away from you for a combined total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period,” according to the CDC.

Reporters on Thursday weren’t satisfied with the press secretary’s suggestion that Biden’s testing this week should fall in line with CDC guidance, suggesting the Covid threat to the president could be a national security risk.

Psaki was asked whether the president was trying to “lead by example” and show Americans they shouldn’t be alarmed by a brief exposure. The press secretary also pushed back when that reporter suggested that Biden, at 79, could face a more serious case of Covid than a younger person.

“We don’t know that,” Psaki said, before talking more about the Covid protocols at the White House. “I would say we do take extra precautions, including individuals who are around the president being tested — that goes over and above, of course.”

Biden’s Covid scares come before he’s set to travel to Brussels next Thursday to participate in an “extraordinary” NATO summit. The president will “discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine, as well as to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies,” the White House said this week.

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