Fed chief Powell tests positive for COVID, has mild symptoms

Jerome H. Powell participates in a panel during a Central Bank Symposium in Stockholm

By Ann Saphir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and is experiencing mild symptoms from the virus, the U.S. central bank said in a statement.

Powell, who turns 70 next month, is up to date on his COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, and is working remotely while isolating at home, the Fed said.

The U.S. central bank's next policy meeting is on Jan. 31- Feb. 1. Investors widely expect the Fed to raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point at that meeting.

There was little reaction in financial markets after the Fed's announcement about Powell's COVID-19 infection. The Fed chief typically prepares for policy meetings with a busy mix of in-person and virtual engagements.

The Fed's rate-setting panel has a giant screen in its meeting room in Washington, and it has accommodated participation of members via videoconference when necessary since resuming in-person policy-setting sessions in March 2022.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to isolate at home for five days, and then - as long as symptoms are never worse than mild and are improving, and no fever is present - to resume activities but continue to use a high-quality mask around others for another 10 days.

That timeline would allow Powell to exit isolation before the start of the Fed's next policy meeting.

Last April, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde disclosed that she had tested positive for COVID-19, a week before the ECB's scheduled policy meeting. She experienced mild symptoms and also worked from home. Her news conference at that meeting went ahead, with Lagarde joining by video link from home as she was still positive for the virus.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Michael S. Derby, Howard Schneider; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Andrea Ricci and Paul Simao)