"Remember, this does not replace the importance of social distancing. It is recommended to keep us all safe," said the first lady

By Benjamin VanHoose
April 10, 2020 10:36 AM
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Melania Trump
First Lady Melania Trump
| Credit: Melania Trump/Instagram

The first lady is wearing a face mask to encourage everyone to follow suit during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On Thursday, Melania Trump released a series of social media posts in which she stressed the importance of wearing protective masks in public to prevent the spread of the contagious virus to others. Melania, 49, also noted that masks don’t negate the need to social distance.

The push for face coverings — after experts previously said they weren’t necessary — comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention learned that a large portion of COVID-19 cases might not show symptoms. Based on the finding, people can unknowingly spread the respiratory virus when they seem otherwise healthy.

“As the CDC continues to study the spread of the COVID-19, they recommend that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures can be difficult to maintain,” she captioned a photo of herself with a white mask covering the bottom half of her face.

She added: “Remember, this does not replace the importance of social distancing. It is recommended to keep us all safe.”

Melania’s campaign comes about one week after her husband, President Donald Trump, said that he would not be wearing one, despite health experts recommending it.

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“The CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure,” Trump, 73, said in a press conference on Friday, April 3. “It’s voluntary, so you don’t have to do it.”

“This is voluntary,” he added at the time. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

U.S. health officials are asking that Americans wear masks made of cloth you can find around your home and that the new recommendation does not replace the government’s ongoing request that people follow social distancing rules, avoid public gatherings and stay six feet apart from others.

coronavirus briefing
President Donald Trump enters the press briefing room on April 3.
| Credit: Win McNamee/Getty

Last month, the first lady appeared in a series of nationally broadcast public service announcements raising awareness and providing information about the pandemic. One PSA focused on a message of reassurance that the disruption to daily life will not become the new normal.

“While changes need to be made now, this is not how we will live forever,” she said in the minute-long video. “Our children will return to school, people will return to work, we will gather at the places of worship, concerts and sporting events again.”

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“I urge you to stay connected to family and love ones through the video chats, phone calls, social media and other safe technologies,” she added in the PSA. “Stay safe and remember, while many of us are apart, we are all in this together.”

According to data compiled by The New York Times, there have been more than 463,619 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16,695 deaths, as of April 10.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.