The White House has been forced to defend First Lady Melania Trump after she faced backlash for removing her mask during a visit to the Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC.
Although she arrived at the hospital wearing a face covering, Ms Trump took it off while reading to a “small group of socially-distanced patients and their families in the hospital’s atrium,” the White House said in a statement.
This went against the policy of the hospital, however, which states that “everyone must wear a mask at all times while in any Children’s National facility to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”
This includes “wearing a mask when entering any Children’s National building, as mandated by area officials. This includes all public places, such as the hallway and cafeteria,” and “wearing a mask at all times when you are around other individuals.”
The slip-up was quickly picked up and criticised online.
Scott Dworkin, lead investigator of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, wrote on Twitter: “Melania Trump removed her mask while inside a children’s hospital with patients today, breaking hospital rules which say a mask is to be worn at all times. This is insanity.”
In response, the White House said Ms Trump “followed the hospital’s mask protocols for public speakers, based on the District of Columbia health guidance, 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.”
“Throughout the holiday program, the First Lady was more than twelve feet away from others in the four-story atrium. Today’s visit, broadcast to 325 inpatient hospital rooms, followed these guidelines,” it continued.
During the visit, the First Lady read “Oliver the Ornament Meets Marley & Joan and Abbey” by author Todd Zimmerman, a children’s book about Christmas ornaments.
Ms Trump was herself diagnosed with Covid-19 around the same time as her husband in October. However, due to a ongoing uncertainty around the lifespan and efficacy of antibodies, scientists recommend that everyone continues to wear a mask to prevent the spread of infection.