White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sparked confusion Tuesday when she referred to President Joe Biden as “asymptomatic” after he came in close contact with a staffer who later tested positive for COVID-19.
The president has since tested negative on multiple occasions, but Psaki’s statement raised eyebrows as the term “asymptomatic” is typically reserved for those who have tested positive for the coronavirus but who aren’t experiencing symptoms from the disease.
The White House staffer who tested positive got their results back on Monday. They were reported to have been a “mid-level staff member” who was on Air Force One along with Biden for at least 30 minutes on Friday as they flew from South Carolina to Pennsylvania.
The staffer was fully vaccinated and received a booster shot against COVID-19, and had tested negative prior to boarding the Friday flight. They started experiencing symptoms on Sunday, reports claimed.
Biden “feeling great”
Biden, for his part, tested negative for the coronavirus on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday this week, reports noted. The tests came in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Those guidelines do not require the president to self-isolate as a result of the apparent exposure to COVID-19, as he is fully vaccinated and has gotten a booster shot.
In the meantime, reporters are wondering about the president’s health, even despite the negative tests. “So, first off, how’s the president feeling given the close contact?” one reporter asked Psaki on Tuesday, according to RealClearPolitics. “Is he asymptomatic? Is he doing OK? I know he is getting tested tomorrow, but can you give us an update?”
In response, Psaki said Biden is “asymptomatic.”
“I spent several hours with him this morning, and he is feeling great,” she added. “And you’ll see him at the speech shortly.”
The press secretary’s reply went unchallenged until the very end of Tuesday’s briefing, when one journalist pressed her on the terminology used.
“You said he’s asymptomatic. That is sometimes a phrase used for people who tested positive but don’t have symptoms. Do you just mean he’s not symptomatic but hasn’t tested?” the reporter asked. Psaki quickly responded: “He does not have symptoms. Yes, correct.”
Pushed for clarification on whether Biden had tested positive, Psaki doubled down: “Yes, he — apologies, he has not tested positive. He tested negative yesterday, as we indicated. And he will be tested against tomorrow. He is not — does not have any symptoms either.”