The 50-year-old First Lady arrived at the hospital on Tuesday wearing a $2,400 Diane von Furstenberg trench coat in a festive shade of green, but she was met by a very different scene to previous years, with just two young patients present to watch her reading – in comparison with a crowd of kids that have gathered in previous years.
While most of the other hospitalized children watched the reading in their rooms from a live stream, Riley Whitney, six, and Sophia Martinez, eight, were seated on the floor in front of her.
Breaking the rules: Melania Trump removed her protective face mask to read a Christmas book to two sick kids at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday
Holiday visit: The First Lady had on a mask when she first walked into the atrium with Sophia Martinez, eight, and Riley Whitney, six
Exception? While Melania and the children were socially distanced, the hospital’s policy states ‘everyone must wear a mask at all times’ to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the hospital
Both youngsters were seated six feet away from one another – and from Melania – however the First Lady still faced backlash online for violating hospital policy by removing her face mask when she sat down to read.
Melania battled COVID-19 in October, but health experts recommend that people still wear masks even if they’ve had the virus as it’s unclear how long antibodies offer protection.
Many of the young patients at the hospital are immunocompromised, and the policy states that ‘everyone must wear a mask at all times while in any Children’s National facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19.’
However, President Donald Trump’s wife proved to be an exception to the rule on her third and final visit as First Lady, which was at least socially distanced.
Melania’s pre-Christmas appearance continued a decades-long tradition in which every First Lady since Bess Truman has visited the hospital to meet with children who are too sick to leave for the holidays.
‘Wonderful to be here,’ she said on Tuesday. ‘This is one of my favorite events during the holiday season.’
Precaution: Everyone else in the room wore face masks, including Riley and Sophia, who were seated in front of her
Expert opinion: Melania battled COVID-19 in October, but health experts recommend that people still wear masks even if they’ve had the virus as it’s unclear how long antibodies last
Festive: Melania sat in front of a large Christmas tree in the atrium as she read to the kids
The former model was dressed up in a green trench that she first donned in 2017 over a black long-sleeve sweater that matched her mask and heels.
Her highlighted brown hair was styled in loose waves around her shoulders, and her diamond bands sparkled as she flipped the pages of the book.
During each of her visits, Melania said she has seen that the spirit of Christmas is alive in each of the children, who are battling medical conditions.
The hospital tweaked the holiday program to safely accommodate the visit during the pandemic, which has claimed more than 300,000 lives in the United States.
‘Mrs. Trump has our deep gratitude for joining every first lady since Bess Truman in bringing holiday cheer to children who are hospitalized and can’t be home during this special time of the year,’ said Dr. Kurt Newman, chief executive officer of the hospital.
Personal choice: The First Lady read the children ‘Oliver the Ornament Meets Marley & Joan and Abbey,’ which is part of Todd Zimmermann’s ‘Oliver the Ornament’ book series
Good thinking: Melania’s reading was live-streamed in the hospital, so the other children could tune in from inside their rooms
Looking back: In past years, Melania was joined by a big crowd of patients and their families, staffers, singers, and dancers for the annual visit. She’s pictured at the hospital in 2019
As her own personal tradition, she has read the patients books from the ‘Oliver the Ornament’ series by Todd Zimmermann. This year’s choice was ‘Oliver the Ornament Meets Marley & Joan and Abbey.’
Melania sat in a chair in front of a towering Christmas tree adorning the hospital’s atrium as she read the book about holiday ornaments that come to life to Riley and Sophia.
In past years, she was joined by a big crowd of patients and their families, hospital staffers, singers, and dancers.
Zimmerman said his Christmas adventure stories serve to teach children about kindness, especially in the face of bullying. During her time as First Lady, Melania has raised awareness about the harmful effects of bullying.
The writer said he was glad her visit would help take the children’s minds ‘off of what they’re going through, if only for an hour.’
Making memories: This year marks Melania’s third and final visit to the hospital as First Lady
Next up: After the reading, Melania put her mask back on to call out numbers in a Bingo game
Outraged: The First Lady’s decision to remove her mask faced backlash on Twitter, where critics slammed her for putting sick children’s lives at risk
When the reading ended, the hospital played Maria Carey’s classic holiday song ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ as she exited the room without a mask.
However, Melania put her mask back on to call out numbers in a Bingo game while Riley and Sophia were seated in front of her. The game is played twice a week to give the children a mental break from their medical conditions.
The First Lady’s decision to remove her mask faced backlash on Twitter, where critics slammed her for putting sick children’s lives at risk.
‘Melania can’t even demonstrate humility and empathy in a children’s hospital? Her blatant arrogance is vile and so very Trumpian,’ one person tweeted, while another commented: ‘She should be charged if any get covid.’
‘I cannot wait to be done with these morons,’ someone else wrote. ‘This is a children’s hospital, most of these kids have suppressed or compromised immune systems.’