Dr. Birx to Newsmax: Biden's COVID Sends Message to US on Virus Dr. Deborah Birx. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Thursday, 21 July 2022 12:46 PM EDT
It was important for the White House to announce quickly the news about President Joe Biden testing positive for COVID-19 and that he has immediately started taking the antiviral Paxlovid to ease his symptoms, Dr. Deborah Birx said on Newsmax Thursday.
Birx was the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator under former President Donald Trump.
"I really appreciate them announcing this, and announcing how important it is to test, particularly if you're over 70, and how important it is to immediately get Paxlovid," Birx said on Newsmax's "National Report." "To all of our people, all of our Americans across the south where the virus is moving rapidly and expanding, you can see how contagious this is even despite vaccines, even despite boostering."
Biden, 79, tested positive for the virus Thursday morning. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that the president, who has been vaccinated twice and who has had two booster shots, is experiencing "mild symptoms."
"People over 70 are still getting infected," Birx told Newsmax. "It's the highest rate of hospitalization in this country, so I hope every American has access to Paxlovid and testing as the president did."
It's important to take the antiviral immediately upon a diagnosis, she said, as "we're still seeing hospitalizations and vaccinated and boosted individuals and so we want people to not be hospitalized."
Further, it's also critical that people over the age of 70, like Biden, are tested regularly and discover infections as early as possible, so they can quickly receive Paxlovid, Birx said.
"It's an antiviral very similar to the antivirals we used early [against] HIV," she said. "It's very effective, but you have to get it early. Waiting for significant symptoms is too late. So I think the president illustrates clearly how important it is to be testing and getting access to Paxlovid early."
When asked how long the president could be ill, Birx said it's hoped that he doesn't experience a rebound illness, but with people older than 70, "they probably need 10 days of Paxlovid to get complete control of the virus, because we know he's potentially positive for at least 10 days."
But if there is a rebound illness, that period could extend the illness out to two weeks, she warned.
"Obviously we want him back on the national and international stage as quickly as possible," said Birx. "The most important thing that he can do right now is to take care of himself and to make sure that he's eating well and staying hydrated. You know, it's hot out there in general, and hydration is so important."
The president's illness also should serve as a reminder that the latest COVID variant is highly contagious, even for people who believe they have immunity from vaccines or prior infections, said Birx.
"We have to be smarter in that risk we're willing to take and how we're going to mitigate those risks, and we have to be smarter about testing and access to Paxlovid," said Birx. "It's really important that if you're a young person and you're in a multigenerational household that you are testing to make sure that your mother or grandmother or elderly aunt doesn't get infected, and if they do, you know where they're going to get Paxlovid."
Meanwhile, Americans are "fairly unhealthy," said Birx, and she hopes Biden's announcement wakes people up to take care of their health, particularly in rural states.
"Let's make sure that we address these access issues in rural America," she said. "People are dying in red counties at higher rates because they don't have the access to the same healthcare that urban Americans do."
The current variant primarily is marked by a significant sore throat and headache, said Birx, as each of the variants has its unique symptoms.
"What we're trying to prevent is that virus evolving into the lower respiratory tract, which the boosters will help with," said Birx. "But some people that have even been boosted end up with an infection in their lower respiratory tract, and that's what gets people in trouble."
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