Nearly two years separate the COVID-19 diagnoses of then-President Trump and current President Biden. In a pandemic that has involved all the forces of American medical and scientific institutions, this is a lifetime.
And for Biden — months before his 80th birthday and falling into the age group most at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 — this could be a lifeline.
The president is reportedly working in isolation from the White House and “experiencing very mild symptoms,” including a runny nose and fatigue, as well as “sometimes a dry cough,” according to his physician, the White House doctor. Kevin O’Connor.
Biden received two initial doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine and was boosted twice, making him “as protected as possible,” O’Connor said.
Following protocols that recommend the immediate use of antivirals for newly infected people at risk of developing severe disease, the president began a course of the antiviral drug Paxlovid. For five days, he will take three tablets twice a day.
This should “provide additional protection against severe illness,” O’Connor said. Among non-hospitalized patients at high risk of disease progression to severe disease, treatment with Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 88%.
But if Biden develops worrisome symptoms, such as low oxygen levels or malfunctions in his heart or kidneys, his doctors may respond with a small arsenal of drugs and procedures refined over the last 2.5 years of the harrowing pandemic that has come to an end. 5 million patients in US hospitals.
Consider, by contrast, the danger that Trump found himself in when he got sick with COVID-19 in October 2020 at age 74.
Despite generally good health, Trump was obese, a powerful risk factor for developing a severe case of COVID. He was also not vaccinated, as the first Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were still more than two months away when he tested positive for coronavirus infection 21 months ago.
In their latest report on the effects of vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated that among people aged 65 years and older, unvaccinated people are 3.8 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than their peers. who were fully vaccinated and received one revaccination.
Protection against death has become even stronger. As of May 22, unvaccinated people aged 65 to 79 were 6.6 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than their fully vaccinated peers. Receiving a booster shot widened that gap: In the Biden-Trump age group, the unvaccinated were almost nine times more likely to die from COVID-19 than their peers who received the vaccine and the booster.
This is evidenced by the course of Trump’s illness.
Within a day of the positive test, the 45th President was flown to the Walter Reed Naval Medical Center after his oxygen levels plummeted and suddenly.
There he was quickly treated with the antiviral drug remdesivir, which was proved beneficial for patients with COVID-19 and has been approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And as part of a program designed to deliver still-experimental drugs to patients under extreme circumstances, Trump was given an antibody cocktail developed by Regeneron more than a month before it was approved by the FDA.
In a sign that doctors were deeply concerned about Trump’s prognosis, doctors also administered steroid dexamethasone. This workhorse drug has saved the lives of many patients. But it is considered safe for use only in individuals at high risk of developing this type of overactive inflammatory response to COVID-19, which can lead to organ failure and death.
The specific coronaviruses that infected the two presidents also fell into their hands in very different ways.
In the early fall of 2020, Trump likely encountered a version of the virus very similar to the one that left Wuhan, China, in the last months of 2019.
Compared to the BA.5 Omicron subvariant, which currently accounts for approximately 78% of cases in the United States, the “hereditary” strain caused more severe disease. Combined with doctors’ inexperience in treating patients with the new coronavirus, 2020 has been a more dangerous time for contracting the virus that causes COVID-19.