WASHINGTON −The coronavirus, which President Joe Biden had hoped to keep in the rearview mirror, is again testing his schedule.
On Tuesday, a day after first lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19, Biden wore a black mask as he entered the East Room of the White House to award the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War Army helicopter pilot.
It was a visible sign of how Jill Biden’s diagnoses and the latest resurgence of cases is putting the pandemic back in the conversation.
And the virus complicates the president’s planned trip to Asia later this week for a summit with the leaders of some of the world’s largest economies. After the G-20 gathering in India, Biden is scheduled to travel to Vietnam to discuss ways to deepen cooperation between the United States and Vietnam.
The White House declined to say if Biden will cancel his trip if he tests positive.
“He tested negative last night. He tested negative today. That’s what matters. He’s not having any symptoms,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “We’re just not going to get into hypotheticals.”
Even if Biden doesn’t get COVID, the late-summer spike in cases isn’t helpful. It’s a callback to a time many Americans want to put behind them and comes as Biden has been focusing his message of rebuilding the nation.
Also, any attention on Biden’s health can be a reminder to Americans of what is arguably his biggest re-election vulnerability: his age.
More than 70% of voters surveyed Aug. 24 to Aug. 30 by The Wall Street Journal said they feel Biden, 80, is too old to seek a second term. Just under half of those surveyed said the same about 77-year-old Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.
Biden has had COVID before. He contracted the virus in July 2022. Jill Biden tested positive in August 2022.
As was the case last year, the White House is emphasizing that tests, vaccines and treatments have put the country in a completely different place than at the start of the pandemic, which no longer disrupts daily life.
“We are in a very good position to deal with COVID-19 in the fall,” Jean-Pierre said.
The administration will be encouraging Americans to get an updated vaccine when it’s available later this month.
Biden is wearing a mask when close to others indoors but there’s no change in White House COVID protocols. Aides were already tested before being near Biden.
“The president is feeling fine,” Jean-Pierre said, “and we’re going to move forward.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden faces renewed scrutiny as COVID-19 resurfaces at White House