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Biden improves 'significantly' after getting BA.5 COVID variant

File Photo: US President Joe Biden gives a thumbs up on the South Lawn of the White House after arriving on Marine One in Washington, D.C., US, on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Joe Biden continues to "improve significantly" despite a lingering sore throat from his coronavirus infection, according to an update Sunday from his doctor.

"The president is responding to therapy as expected," wrote Dr. Kevin O’Connor in his latest note. Biden has been taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug that helps reduce the chance of severe illness.

O’Connor wrote that Biden still has a sore throat, though other symptoms, including a cough, runny nose and body aches, "have diminished considerably."

Biden tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday morning. O'Connor said Saturday that the president likely became infected with a highly contagious variant, known as BA.5, that is spreading throughout the country, and Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said Sunday, "It is the BA.5 variant."

"Thank goodness our vaccines and therapeutics work well against it, which is why I think the president's doing well," Jha told CBS' "Face the Nation."

Jha also gave a positive update on the president's health.

"I checked in with his team late last night. He was feeling well. He had a good day yesterday," Jha said.

That variant is an offshoot of the omicron strain that emerged late last year. It is believed responsible for the vast majority of coronavirus cases in the country. He has been isolating in the White House residence since then.

Administration officials have emphasized that his symptoms are mild because he has received four vaccine doses, and he started taking the antiviral drug Paxlovid after becoming infected.

The White House has not released any photos or video of Biden since Friday, when the media watched him participate in a virtual meeting with economic advisers.

Jha pledged that the White House would keep giving updates on the president's condition and whether he might have long-term symptoms.

"We think it’s really important for the American people to know how well their president is doing," he said.

"Obviously if he has persistent symptoms, obviously if any of them interfere with his ability to carry out his duties, we will disclose that early and often with the American people. But I suspect that this is going to be a course of COVID that we've seen in many Americans who have ben fully vaccinated, double boosted, getting treated with those tools in hand," Jha said. "The president’s been doing well and we’re going to expect that he's going to continue to do so.’’

Biden's press secretary has said 17 people, including members of the president's senior staff and at least one member of Congress, were determined to have been in close contact with Biden when he might have been contagious. None has tested positive so far, Jha said on "Fox News Sunday."