After his Thursday COVID-19 diagnosis, President Joe Biden’s condition has been the subject of much speculation and concern, and though his physician said Friday that his “symptoms have improved,” it was revealed that the commander in chief had experienced an elevated temperature, leading to questions about White House transparency as the situation unfolds.
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 lowered with the help of some acetaminophen, and though his cough, runny nose, and fatigue remained as of Friday, the commander in chief’s blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and oxygen levels were all registering at normal levels.
O’Connor explained of the vaccinated and double-boosted president, “I anticipated that he will respond favorably, as most maximally protected patients do. There has been nothing in the course of his illness thus far which gives me cause to alter that initial expectation.”
The New York Post noted, however, that 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,” not for temperature regulation.
Jacqui Heinrich of Fox News called the team out on that point, noting that Dr. O’Connor’s “letter described his 99.4 degree non-fever as being treated with Tylenol, but then I’m hearing from you that he was treated for discomfort. That’s an inconsistency.”
Jha replied by saying he would need to refer back to O’Connor’s statement on the president’s status and asserting that “99.4 is very much within the normal range.”
Further friction between the press and the White House stemmed from the fact that it was not O’Connor addressing journalists, but Jha, with James Rosen of Newsmax saying, “We haven’t heard directly from him…a piece of paper is not directly. We hear directly from Dr. Jha, that’s who we hear directly from.”
Zolan Kanno-Youngs of the New York Times pressed Jean-Pierre on the point, asking, “Does the White House plan on making him available for questions, making him available to the public at any point?”
As worries mount among Republicans, who fear the possibility that Vice President Kamala Harris might have to take the reins for an incapacitated Biden, and Democrats, who dread the political fallout of an already-declining president addled with COVID complications, the long-overdue insistence that the White House be a bit more forthcoming with information than it generally prefers is only going to grow louder.