Netizens expressed mixed reactions on Twitter while commenting on a video of US President Donald Trump's wife, Melania, taking her mask off before reading a book aloud at an event, reportedly breaking hospital policy regarding the necessity of mask wearing inside the facility amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Melania Trump made her fourth annual visit to the Children's National Hospital in Washington DC on Tuesday, to read a book aloud to young patients and announce a bingo game, but once she sat down inside the atrium she removed her mask, seated in front of a small audience at a distance of at least several meters, with many of the meeting's participants attending virtually.
First Lady Melania Trump removes mask to read to children at hospital, breaking the hospital's safety guidelines. pic.twitter.com/Cd4E48P30L— The Hill (@thehill) December 15, 2020
Melania Trump expressed her gratitude and joy to visit the hospital and its young patients during the holiday season, before reading from Oliver the Ornament by Todd Zimmerman.
"It is wonderful to be here. This is one of my favourite events during the holiday time, and I'm very excited and looking forward to reading a book", she said.
According to reports, the first lady broke hospital safety guidelines which require a face mask be worn in "all public places, such as the hallway and cafeteria", "at all times when you are around other individuals".
Some Twitter users immediately responded with criticism towards Melania Trump's decision to read the book at an event without a mask, noting that it could endanger children at the hospital.
Let her endanger her own children... not other people’s.— Charli Huxley (@ImKnotTheOne) December 15, 2020
Teachers across our country are wearing masks every day all day when teaching and reading aloud to children, who are also wearing masks. There is no excuse for her to not wear a mask.— Speedling (@USpeedling) December 15, 2020
Rules? They don’t apply to the Trumps.— martyrabkin (@martyrabkin) December 15, 2020
Some users joked that the danger to kids was not obvious on video, so could be improved with additional drama.
Yeah...but you missed the part where she brought them all close and put on an aggressive beat box demonstration— Champ (@rafter_party) December 15, 2020
But many users observed that the spacious room in which the event took place looked almost empty, according to the video, and that Melania Trump was apparently at safe distance from anyone around her while she was not wearing her mask.
What a weird safety guideline! Is there any chance to infect someone who is more than 10 meters away just only by reading a book?— Savas Ozturk (@savasozturk00) December 15, 2020
She's more than six feet away, thus the microphone. She's doing a nice thing for Christmas.— Caminante (@caminante_vzla) December 15, 2020
Socially. Distant.— Dr Feminist SJW (@Absolut_Boston) December 15, 2020
One user hypothesized what would happen in the media, if the same situation happened to a previous first lady, Michelle Obama, or to the future presidential spouse, Jill Biden.
Wonder what the headline would be if it were Michelle or Dr Jill???— Peggy (@DesiFlurane) December 15, 2020
As reported by CNN, in response to the many reactions, hospital spokeswoman Diana Troese cited DC health regulations, which do not require a person to wear a mask while giving a speech if the audience is at least 1.8 meters (6 ft) distant.
"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. All other people in that space were wearing masks. The remainder of her visit, she wore a mask," Troese said, responding to a CNN request for comment.
Melania Trump recovered, along with her husband, from a bout with the coronavirus infection in early October. Experts are not sure, however, how long antibodies offer protection, and still recommend wearing a mask, as remains the possibility of re-contracting the disease.