First Lady Melania Trump removed her mask before reading to children during her annual visit to Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC on Tuesday, breaking from hospital rules requiring visitors to wear a face covering amid the coronavirus pandemic.
She wore a mask as she arrived inside the hospital’s atrium but removed it once she sat down. She was several feet away from people inside the room, and most attendees participated in the reading virtually.
The hospital’s policy instructs that “everyone must wear a mask at all times while in any Children’s National facility to prevent the spread of Covid-19.” Visitors must wear a mask “when entering any Children’s National building, as mandated by area officials.
Masks must be worn in “all public places, such as the hallway and cafeteria” and “at all times when you are around other individuals,” according to hospital policy.
“It is wonderful to be here,” she said at the event. “This is one of my favourite events during the holiday time, and I’m very excited and looking forward to reading a book.”
She read from Oliver the Ornament by Todd Zimmerman.
In a statement to CNN, Children’s National spokeswoman Diana Troese pointed to health guidelines in Washington, not the hospital’s, that say that “wearing a mask is not required when a person is giving a speech for broadcast or an audience, provided no one is within six feet of the speaker.”
“In the case of today’s visit which was broadcast to our 325 patients, while the First Lady did remove her mask while she read a story, she was more than 12 feet away from others in our large atrium,” according to the statement. “All other people in that space were wearing masks. The remainder of her visit, she wore a mask.”
The event had been significantly scaled back because of the pandemic – only two children sat in attendance, and staff and hospital officials in the room wore masks and face shields, while the rest of the audience watched a livestream.
More than 16 million Americans – including the First Lady, Donald Trump and their son Barron – have been infected during the public health crisis. More than 302,000 Americans have died.