Denzel Washington Bows Out of Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony After Contracting COVID

Glenn Garner

Jul 7, 2022

Denzel Washington has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Academy Award winner, 67, was absent at Thursday's Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House, where he was one of 17 people to be honored, after contracting the coronavirus, PEOPLE confirms.

"Denzel tested positive for COVID and so he was unfortunately unable to attend the Medal of Freedom award ceremony," a rep for Washington says. The White House also confirmed his absence due to a positive COVID test.

The rep adds of Washington: "He feels fine."

President Joe Biden referred to Washington as "a man who couldn't be here today but wanted to be" during Thursday's ceremony, noting that the actor will be honored at a later date.

In addition to his long career as an actor, Washington is also being recognized for serving as the national
Washington previously recounted growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., where he told PEOPLE he "was lucky" to have the Boys & Girls Club to help "make me the man that I am today."

"Too many of my childhood friends had little structure or guidance. Some had run-ins with the law and ended up in prison," he said in 2018. "That could have been me."

"My father was a Pentecostal preacher who taught me the importance of faith. My mother was a beautician who sacrificed to get me the best education possible. But I also had a local Boys & Girls Club with mentors who cared and gave me the confidence I needed to set higher goals than I might have," Washington added.

The White House announced Washington as one of the 2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients last week, along with Simone Biles, Gabrielle Giffords and Megan Rapinoe, as well as posthumous awards for Steve Jobs and John McCain.

The annual award, which is the highest civilian honor in the United States, is given to those "who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors," according to a release.

Washington recently earned an Academy Award nomination for his leading role in The Tragedy of MacBeth, extending his record as the most-nominated Black actor with 10 nods. He's won twice for Training Day and Glory.