When President Joe Biden announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, the 79-year-old released a video with him saying “I’m doing well, getting a lot of work done.”
Later, he tweeted a picture of himself working away in the Oval Office, with the words “keeping busy!”
“The president does what every other person in America does every day, which is he takes reasonable precautions against COVID but does his job,” the White House Chief of Staff told MSNBC late in the afternoon on Thursday.
As COVID has evolved, so has our attitude towards work. When COVID first hit, people were shuttered for days and even weeks, but now working from home, just like if you had a cold, is becoming the norm.
“People have colds and work through them all the time,” says Ulysses Wu, MD, chief epidemiologist for Hartford HealthCare. “And sometimes COVID acts like a cold. If it’s mild enough I don’t see why working is a big deal, as long as you work remotely and don’t infect other people.”
If you do have to work through COVID, Dr. Wu offers this advice:
- Work remotely.
- Only work as much as you can tolerate, as you don’t want to exacerbate your symptoms.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- If your job isn’t essential, take the time off needed to get better.
Javeed Sukhera, MD, PhD, FRCPC, physician-in-chief of the Institute of Living, said there are dangers associated with the message that Biden is sending.
“It goes back to wellbeing and the ‘grind culture,’” Sukhera said. “People see other people doing it and they fear they are missing out if they don’t do the same.”
Sukhera said the grind culture mentality isn’t healthy, as people think if they aren’t working around the clock they will be passed by others who do. And as people see more people with COVID working, especially the 79-year-old president of the United States, they will feel like they need to do the same.
“He’s the president – it would not be unusual to work through a mild illness rather than taking seven days off,” Wu said.