Biden’s COVID-19 diagnosis highlights US as having ‘biggest number of infections among senior officials’
Published: Jul 22, 2022 02:58 PM Updated: Jul 23, 2022 07:18 PM
US President Joe Biden, who is fully vaccinated and received two boosters, tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21, 2022, and was

US President Joe Biden, who is fully vaccinated and received two boosters, tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21, 2022, and was "experiencing very mild symptoms," according to the White House. The photo shows Biden departing the Oval Office and walking to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on July 20, 2022 in Washington. Photo: AFP

The news that US President Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 has drawn global attention and led to a range of reactions in the US, including increasing concerns over Biden's health, questions on whether the president can perform his duties, and criticism targeting the media's different response to former president Donald Trump's positive diagnosis, which analysts said showcased the US' total failure in dealing with the pandemic and the fracturing of society, as well as the fierce battle between the two parties. 

With Biden joining a handful of high-level US officials who have been infected, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former president Barack Obama, the US' failure in its COVID-19 response has been displayed to the world again, analysts said. 

On Thursday, the White House said that Biden, who is fully vaccinated and double boosted, was experiencing "very mild" symptoms and began taking Pfizer's antiviral pill Paxlovid. He will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties during isolation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday sent a message of sympathy to Biden and wished him a speedy recovery. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also sent his best wishes to Biden, Reuters reported.

The news of Biden's positive test for coronavirus soon made headlines both in the US and globally. Although the White House has worked hard to play down concerns about Biden's health, many pointed out the influence of COVID-19 on Biden remains unknown considering his age and previous medical and surgical history.

The US now has the world's largest number of cases and deaths of coronavirus but the government has chosen to live with the virus, analysts said, noting that Biden's infection once again highlighted the severe epidemic situation in the US and the US government's failure in dealing with it. 

Biden, 79, suffered two brain aneurysms in 1988 and had surgery to repair burst blood vessels. Worries on his health continued since he announced to campaign for presidency and related questions were frequently floated by the media especially after he often appeared to stumble during public events. For example, he stumbled when climbing the steps to Air Force One in March; and in June, he took a tumble while out for a bike ride at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. 

Compared with former president Donald Trump, who was also infected with COVID-19, Biden's age represents a risk factor. But given he is fully vaccinated and taking Paxlovid while experiencing mild symptoms, the risk may statistically be lower and he may not need to go to hospital like his predecessor did, Chen Xi, an associate professor of public health at Yale University, told the Global Times.

Trump announced on October 2, 2020 he tested positive for the coronavirus and was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and on October 5, he returned to the White House. 

Biden's infection showcased that the biggest problem for the US is that the pandemic is far from over, while efforts to contain transmission have already ended. With the continuous emerging of various variants of coronavirus, the declining of the efficiency after being vaccinated, and the high risk of indoor infections in autumn and winter months, a new wave of infections will be hard to avoid, Chen said.

A COVID-19 testing site is seen on Times Square in New York, the United States, May 17, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

A COVID-19 testing site is seen on Times Square in New York, the United States, May 17, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

According to data from US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, roughly 126,000 new infections are being reported every day, up roughly 26 percent from one month ago. Two new subvariants of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, have become the dominant strains of the coronavirus across the US.

Many analysts had also warned about the effects of the US living with the coronavirus. For example, US health officials were cited by Reuters as saying that data showed overall, one in 13 adults in the US have long COVID symptoms, including fatigue, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, cognitive difficulties, chronic pain, sensory abnormalities and muscle weakness.

Biden's infection after many senior officials and politicians testing positive once again showcased the US' total failure in dealing with the pandemic since there is no other country in the world that has seen so many infections among the people and the high-level officials, Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. 

As of Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the US had reported more than 90,200,000 infections with a total of 1,025,796 related deaths - the world's largest number of cases and deaths. 

Lü noted that Biden's infection would also increase concerns over the stability of the Biden administration. The president's stumbling in March and June probably hint a decline of Biden's health, and more questions have been and will be asked on his capability of political decision-making and this administration's functioning.

Currently, in the US, it seems nobody has the capability to stand out and control the whole situation, with so many difficult problems unsolved - Vice President Kamala Harris has suffered from a low approval rating, while Congress is in chaos and the Supreme Court is mired in controversy. The situation in the US is both fractured and messy, according to Lü.

The White House was also aware that it will be crucial for the Biden administration to show the president can perform his duties in the coming days, and the communications team posted updates about how Biden felt and photos of him working in the White House. On Thursday afternoon, Biden also posted a video, in which he said "I'm doing well."

The message from the White House and Biden cannot relieve everyone's concerns. Some netizens commented after Biden's tweet, saying he should plan to hand over power to Harris should his illness worsen. Similar questions were also raised to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who side-stepped the question and said Biden is "able to do the business of the American people." 

Analysts pointed out that the subsequent reactions to Biden's infections again showcased the fracturing throughout US society and the country's systematic failures. For example, a parody Trump statement about Biden's positive coronavirus diagnosis has gone viral on Twitter since Thursday, which said that Biden, who many have said is "our worst president," has come down with the virus and "I wish you a speedy recovery, even though you are taking America in the wrong direction. No one wants Kamala!"

Since Thursday, some Trump supporters expressed discontentment about the different responses of media on Biden's and Trump's infections, with many saying that media outlets have been busy playing down worries about Biden's health by stressing his "mild symptoms" whereas when Trump tested positive, they were busy blaming him for not dealing with the virus.

What other influences Biden's positive diagnosis for COVID-19 may have in the US remains to be seen along with changes of his health conditions. But the various reactions are epitome of the current split of the US society and the fierce battle of two parties, said one analyst, referring to the current series of high-profile public hearing on the Capital riot.

The House January 6 committee on Thursday held its final public hearing of the summer, this time focusing on Trump's inaction for 187 minutes as rioters descended on the Capitol.

Some analysts pointed out that the Democrats want to pin blame on Trump for the Capitol riot by running a series of hearings to boost the midterm election, while the Republicans are just sitting by and doing nothing, making the battle more dramatic and deepening disputes. 

Biden's public approval rating has fallen to 36 percent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll in July. Some observers noted that Biden's incompetence in dealing with domestic inflations have contributed to the situation and may affect the results of the mid-term election. 

Some observers expressed worries that during the midterm election, more Republican candidates may turn to "Trumpism" to win more votes.