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Britain's Queen Elizabeth tests positive for COVID-19

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Queen Elizabeth has tested positive for COVID. Buckingham Palace issued a statement on Sunday, saying the queen was experiencing mild symptoms and expected to continue light duties this coming week. Victoria Arbiter is the author of a biography of Queen Elizabeth for Pocket Giants and a royal commentator for CNN. Victoria, so what do we know about the queen's condition?

VICTORIA ARBITER: Good morning to you. Well, we're not going to be getting a running commentary from Buckingham Palace in terms of the queen's health. They're always very clear whenever a member of the royal family is experiencing medical issues that they give you the basic information. So as you mentioned, yesterday, we heard that she's experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms. We will not hear any more than that unless, of course, the queen would take a turn and get potentially worse. The fact that the statement said as well that the queen is undertaking light duties, continuing to work behind the scenes, that is classic Buckingham Palace speak for wanting to make sure that the public is aware of what's going on so that there is an element of transparency, but at the same time offering reassurance that all is well. So certainly, I think the old adage no good - no news is good news is...

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

ARBITER: ...A good thing today.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. So it's covering all the bases there. I know the queen, though, has suffered some health issues over the past year. What else do we know about the state of her health?

ARBITER: Again, they tend to be pretty private when it comes to the queen's health. So much of her life is for public consumption. But that's one area where they do like to guard her privacy. But as you mentioned, she's certainly been frailer in recent months. Last year - it was around October - she was admitted to hospital for what Buckingham Palace subsequently called preliminary investigations. We never learned any more than that. But the queen is always keen to offer that reassurance that the public needs. And so we have continued to see her appearing via Zoom. Again, thank goodness, I guess, in this age of COVID, everyone's got quite used to seeing people work from home.

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

ARBITER: And it's no different for the queen. She did appear in a video but - live, having an audience at Windsor Castle last week. And she did make a quip about not being able to move. She was resting heavily on a walking stick. But she was in good spirits. And I think, again, that was a way of offering reassurance that all is well.

MARTINEZ: All right. Victoria, I hate to steer onto Worst-Case Scenario Boulevard here. But if the Queen should become incapacitated, who makes the decisions?

ARBITER: Prince Charles. We would jump to Prince Charles. Well, there are councilors of state. And this policy of councilors of the state is in place in the event that the queen is unable to make the decisions that need to be made. And if she is unable to continue the duties that are expected of her, say, the councilors of state would look into making those decisions. But that would be really unusual, for us to have to jump to that scenario. Certainly, she's a constitutional monarch. She's not a governing monarch in terms of it's not her that's running the government. So I think it would be very unlikely if we were to find ourselves in that type of situation. Of course, the queen, again, is not one to make a fuss. But she'll be being very closely monitored by a medical team behind the scenes. And I just hope she's listening to those advisers. The queen is not one who likes to disappoint people. She's committed to her duties, as she has been since the start of her reign in 1952. So I think we can continue to see her soldiering on in the days ahead.

MARTINEZ: Victoria, quickly - speaking to Prince Charles, there are reports that she might have contracted COVID from Prince Charles. So what do we know about how she may have gotten it?

ARBITER: Yes. That's been rumored. But again, Windsor Castle is starting to open up as the world starts to get back to normal. There's understood to be a number of people at Windsor Castle within the queen's bubble that have contracted COVID. So it's possible it came from Prince Charles. He was there on February 8. He did see the queen that day. He tested positive February 10. But we won't put all the blame on Prince Charles' shoulders. It's possible it could have come from any member of staff.

MARTINEZ: Victoria Arbiter is the author of a biography of Queen Elizabeth for Pocket Giants. Victoria, thanks.

ARBITER: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.