All-out effort to keep 79-year-old Biden COVID-free

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All-out effort to keep 79-year-old Biden COVID-free
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WASHINGTON — When President Biden met with U.S. governors at the White House on Monday, he was the only one given a glass of water — lest anyone else remove their mask to take a drink.

The president was seated more than 10 feet from everyone, including Vice President Kamala Harris and members of his Cabinet. Gov. Charlie Baker was in that group.

A White House staffer who was wearing a surgical mask when Biden entered the room was quickly handed an N95 version.

These are just some of the extraordinary efforts on the part of the White House to keep the president from getting COVID-19, even though he’s gotten both of his regular vaccinations and his booster.

It’s no surprise that unusual steps are taken to protect any president. But the strict precautions could also threaten to undercut the Biden administration’s own efforts to tell Americans — especially those who are vaccinated and boosted — that they can get on with something closer to their normal lives in the face of the omicron wave.

And it’s emblematic of the messaging challenges surrounding the administration’s approach to COVID-19 as the virus becomes endemic, familiar and somewhat controlled but still menacing, with hard-to-follow guidelines often unevenly implemented.

For months, Biden aides have fretted that the people who are most protected against COVID-19 remain the most cautious, a dynamic they view as a drag on the nation’s economic and psychological recovery.

When the highly transmissible omicron variant hit, Biden said it was a “cause for concern, not cause for panic.”

In recent weeks, his aides and science advisers have highlighted study after study showing the strong protection offered by the COVID vaccines against the variant and reassuring vaccinated people they can go about their daily lives. At a Jan. 19 press conference, Biden declared: “We have the tools — vaccines, boosters, masks, tests, pills — to save lives and keep businesses and schools open” and rejected the notion that still-widespread restrictions reflect a “’new normal.”

“It will get better,” he promised.

Since even before Biden was elected, his aides have gone all-out to protect the now-79-year-old president from potential infection. That caution continued well after he was fully vaccinated and living at the White House.

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