Melania Trump defends removing mask during children’s hospital visit

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The White House has defended first lady Melania Trump over her alleged violation of the mask policy of the Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC during her annual visit there. 

A statement issued by the White House said Ms Trump was reading stories to a “small group of socially-distanced patients and their families in the hospital’s atrium.”

The clarification was issued after the first lady was widely criticised for taking off her mask on Tuesday during her holiday storytime for patients at hospital, an event she has been holding for the last three years. She read Oliver the Ornament Meets Marley & Joan and Abbey by author Todd Zimmerman, a children’s book about Christmas ornaments.

“Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the event was limited in numbers of in-person participants and all guests were required to wear face masks and adhere to social distancing,” the White House said. 

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“The visit 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,” the press statement said, emphasising that local guidelines were not broken.

It further added: “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.”

This year the gathering 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 live stream.

Both the president and the first lady have been criticised in the past for their lenient approach towards mask-wearing during the pandemic that has seen more 300,000 deaths in the US with over 16 million confirmed cases. The first family — including the first lady, President Donald Trump and their son Barron — have been infected with coronavirus in the past.

Source: The independent