WASHINGTON — President Biden hosted an impromptu public event Friday afternoon as part of an apparent effort by the White House to demonstrate that he remains healthy enough to lead the nation during his second day of treatment for COVID-19.
Biden, 79, gave a thumbs-up as reporters shouted questions about how he was feeling — moments after emitting a phlegmy cough as White House economist Cecilia Rouse spoke.
Biden was beamed into the event via video feed from the second-floor White House residence. His advisers and reporters gathered in person in the White House-adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
“Let me start by apologizing for my voice, I’m feeling much better than I sound,” Biden said.
“We are meeting today on gas prices and we have some really good news. Gas prices are coming down,” he said. “In fact, gas prices have fallen every day this summer — for 38 days in a row. You know, you can find gas for $3.99 or less than more than 30,000 gas stations in more than 35 states.”
Biden added that “we’ve been working really hard to bring the price down,” referring to his order in March to release a million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The president then called on oil companies to drill more on existing federal leases and asked refiners to help lower prices at the pump.
The average price of a regular gallon of gas hit an all-time high of more than $5 per gallon last month, contributing to the worst inflation since 1981 and helping send Biden’s approval rating as low as 30%.
Rouse, however, warned the a reduction in prices may not be permanent and the price of gas remains $1.25 per gallon more expensive than one year ago, according to AAA data.
“Energy markets remain highly volatile,” Rouse warned. “And that’s especially true in the current environment with the additional disruption created by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. So oil prices could rise again and it’s very difficult to reliably predict where these prices will be over the longer term.”
Biden’s advanced age and asthma put him at higher risk of serious illness, but he’s also quadruple-vaccinated — lowering his risk — and is on a five-day regimen of antiviral drug Paxlovid.
In a Friday morning note, Biden’s physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor wrote that Biden had a mild fever of 99.4°F on Thursday night, but that “[h]is temperature has remained normal since then.” O’Connor suspended Biden’s use of two heart medications Thursday after his diagnosis.