Melania Trump's Latest Appearance Has People Seeing Red

Traditionally, the FLOTUS reads a book to patients at Children's National Hospital in Washington D.C. at Christmas-time every year. First Lady Melania Trump just carried out the long-standing tradition, which dates back to First Lady Bess Truman who started it 70 years ago. This is the last time Trump will attend the event, as next year it will presumably be carried out by soon-to-be First Lady, Jill Biden, wife of President-elect Joe Biden.

"It is wonderful to be here," said Trump (via People). "This is one of my favorite events during the holiday time."

Trump also tweeted about the visit. "Today, I was grateful to return to [Children's National Hospital] to read an inspiring Christmas story & play a game safely with the children," she wrote. "During all of my visits, I have felt the children's warmth, seen the joy in their eyes & the bright smiles on their faces. #MerryChristmas."

The White House issued a statement insisting Melania Trump followed proper safety protocol

As noted by Newsweek, most of the patients tuned in via livestream to hear Trump read Oliver the Ornament Meets Marley & Joan and Abbey. However, two young patients at the hospital showed up in person and sat on a carpet in front of the first lady as she read the story in front of a Christmas tree. Many people were upset by the gesture because the FLOTUS removed her face mask to read the book.

While social media users criticized Trump for not wearing a mask, the White House insisted the first lady did nothing wrong and issued a statement explaining why she did not wear a mask. "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," read the statement.

The statement continued, "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. 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."

A spokesperson for the hospital also defended Melania Trump

Dina Troese, a spokesperson for Children's National Hospital, also defended Trump's decision not to wear a mask. "Our number one priority at Children's National Hospital is the safety of our patients, families, and employees," she told CNN. "Under DC Health regulations, 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. All other people in that space were wearing masks. The remainder of her visit, she wore a mask."

CNN pointed out, however, that the hospital's official policy is much stricter than the health regulations in place in Washington D.C. Per the guidelines listed on the hospital's website, the hospital is taking many additional precautions to prevent the spread of COVID. In addition to limiting the number of visitors who enter the hospital and screening them for potential COVID-19 symptoms, the hospital's guidelines state that "all staff, families/caregivers and visitors must wear a mask at all times while in any Children's National facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

Melania Trump had COVID-19 in October

While Melania and Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 just a couple of months ago, that's not a guarantee that the first lady is unable to spread the virus. While antibodies do linger in the system after a person recovers from COVID-19, health experts are not sure how long they offer protection so it's possible that she could contract the virus again.

"Even though the president himself was infected and he has likely antibodies that likely would be protective, we're not sure how long that protection lasts," White House Coronavirus Task Force member and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told ABC News (via CNN).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone except children under the age of 2 wear masks when they are in public or with people outside of their household. "You should wear a mask, even if you do not feel sick," says the CDC on their website. "This is because several studies have found that people with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who are not yet showing symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can still spread the virus to other people. The main function of wearing a mask is to protect those around you, in case you are infected but not showing symptoms."