Following his diagnosis of COVID-19 last week, President Joe Biden’s health status has been the subject of much speculation and concern, and though his physician indicated Friday that his “symptoms have improved,” during an unscheduled appearance that same day, he was heard emitting a rough-sounding cough that has prompted questions about White House transparency on the issue, as the New York Post reports.
Despite repeated assurances that the commander in chief was experiencing only mild symptoms of the virus, his virtual participation in a meeting on gas prices as well as seemingly conflicting information emanating from the administration itself has resulted in a cloudier picture than many would prefer.
Temperature raises eyebrows
As ABC News reported, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, physician to the president, issued a statement indicating that at one point, Biden ran a temperature of 99.4 degrees, which was said to have been lowered with the help of acetaminophen, and though the president’s cough, runny nose, and fatigue remained as of Friday, his blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and oxygen levels were all registering at normal levels.
However, as the outlet noted, there appeared to be some disagreement about how Biden’s higher-than-normal temperature should be interpreted, with Dr Ashish Jha declaring at a press briefing that he would not have described a reading of 99.4 degrees as “elevated” and certainly not as a fever, and he and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre indicated that the aforementioned acetaminophen was given for “discomfort,” rather than for temperature regulation.
Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich called the White House team out on that very point, noting that Dr. O’Connor’s “letter described his 99.4-degree non-fever as being treated with Tylenol” and adding, “but then I’m hearing from you that he was treated for discomfort. That’s an inconsistency.”
Cough reignites concerns
Worries over the list of symptoms being experienced by the 79-year-old vaccinated and double-boosted president continued in the wake of his Friday appearance in which his croaky sounds prompted him to say, “Let me start by apologizing for my voice. I’m feeling much better than I sound”
During his discussion of the decrease in gas prices seen in recent days, Biden sat with a bag of cough drops close by, suggesting that the tickle in his throat was perhaps more persistent than administration officials had acknowledged.
As the Post noted, nearly five minutes into the back-and-forth regarding energy costs, Biden exhibited what the outlet referred to as a “phlegmy cough.”
Transparency questions linger
As a result of all of the seemingly inconsistent information regarding Biden’s health, tensions have surfaced between members of the press corps, Jean-Pierre, and Jha, particularly regarding Dr. O’Connor’s unavailability for in-person questioning.
“We’ve given you two detailed letters from Dr. O’Connor and you’ve heard directly from him,” Jean-Pierre stated when asked why the doctor was not being put forward to field media inquiries, according to the Post.
“We haven’t,” a reporter interjected, adding, “[w]e haven’t heard directly from him, prompting Jean-Pierre to fire back, “Yes, you have. You’ve heard from the letter. That is hearing directly from him. We’re not playing telephone here.”
As Biden’s nebulous status sparks new concerns among Republicans who dread the specter of Vice President Kamala Harris’ emergency elevation to the Oval Office and also among Democrats, who fear the political fallout of an already-declining president saddled with lingering COVID-related complications, the long-overdue insistence that the White House be more forthcoming with information than it typically prefers is unlikely to die down anytime soon.