First Lady’s Positive Covid Test Complicates Biden Plan For G-20

First lady Jill Biden’s positive test for Covid-19 threatens to upend President Joe Biden’s plans to travel to the G-20 summit in India, coming just days before his expected departure.

(Bloomberg) — First lady Jill Biden’s positive test for Covid-19 threatens to upend President Joe Biden’s plans to travel to the G-20 summit in India, coming just days before his expected departure.

The White House announced the first lady’s result Monday night and said she was experiencing only mild symptoms. The president himself was tested Monday evening and found to be negative. 

“The President will test at a regular cadence this week and monitor for symptoms,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, but provided no further details on how regularly Biden would be tested ahead of the summit, which is slated to start on Sept. 9 in New Delhi.

The first lady’s Covid bout comes ahead of a busy travel schedule for the president and a White House official familiar with his plans said no changes had been made at this time. 

President Biden is slated to leave for New Delhi on Thursday, according to a White House guidance, and participate in the G-20 on Saturday and Sunday. Following the summit, Biden is scheduled to travel to Hanoi, Vietnam on Sunday, where he will meet General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and other Vietnamese leaders.

Vice President Kamala Harris is currently en route to the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia. 

Biden is also expected to travel to Alaska on Sept. 11 to mark the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, joining a memorial ceremony with service members and their families. Later this month, Biden is expected to attend the United Nations General Assembly, a trip that will also include a meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to discuss improved worker protections. 

Biden’s absence from the G-20 would be another blow for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is hosting the event. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has no plans to attend the G-20 for the second year running and Chinese President Xi Jinping is also not intending to travel to New Delhi, according to officials familiar with the preparations for the meeting who requested anonymity to speak about the planning. Xi’s decision comes amid heightened tensions between China and India, the world’s most populous countries.

Biden on Sunday said he was disappointed about reports that Xi plans to skip the conference. 

“I am disappointed, but I am going to get to see him,” Biden told reporters, but did not indicate when he might next have an opportunity to meet his Chinese counterpart. The two may have the chance to speak in November, when the US hosts the APEC conference in San Francisco. 

Earlier: Biden ‘Disappointed’ If Xi Plans to Skip G-20 Summit in India

The US had expectations the G-20 meeting in India could be an opportunity to improve relations with China. Biden and Xi last spoke on the sidelines of the G-20 in Bali, Indonesia in November, but US-China ties worsened after an alleged Chinese spy balloon crossed the US. A number of high-level Biden administration officials have traveled to China in recent months.

The first lady had traveled with Biden to their Rehoboth, Delaware home on Saturday after surveying hurricane damage in Florida. The president was there with her until Monday morning.

“She is currently experiencing only mild symptoms,” the first lady’s communications director, Elizabeth Alexander, said in a statement Monday evening. “She will remain at their home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.”

The president on Monday traveled to Philadelphia for an event to mark Labor Day. He returned to the White House in the evening.

The president and first lady both tested positive for Covid-19 in 2022, and they each also experienced a rebound case. Their symptoms at the time were mild, and both were prescribed medication.

Biden last month said the White House would request additional money from Congress to fund the next round of coronavirus vaccine shots. 

A new “Eris” variant of the virus has become dominant in the United States, and hospitals have reported an increase in cases.

Earlier: Biden to Ask Congress to Fund New Covid Shots For All Americans

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