Melania Trump Makes Final Annual Christmas Visit to Children's Hospital (and Why She Took Off Her Mask)

The first lady will leave office with her husband on Jan. 20

Melania Trump
First lady Melania Trump reads a Christmas book to children who are patients at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty

In an annual Christmas-time tradition, First Lady Melania Trump paid a visit to the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, reading a book to young patients.

Seated in front of a large Christmas tree, she read Oliver the Ornament Meets Marley & Joan and Abbey, the third story in a trilogy about one family's collection of Christmas ornaments, which magically come to life at night.

A pool report noted that prior to reading the book, the first lady called numbers in a game of bingo attended by the young patients.

The annual appearance, which began with First Lady Bess Truman, has been ongoing for 70 years. Tuesday marked the final time Melania would attend the event while in the White House.

"It is wonderful to be here," she said. "This is one of my favorite events during the holiday time."

She also offered a greeting to the patients watching the event from their hospital rooms, giving a special hello to a patient named Kellan.

"Hello to the patients in the rooms that they're watching us, and a special hello to Kellan and I hope you're feeling well — stay strong and keep fighting," Melania said.

According to a pool report, only two children were in-person for the reading: 6-year-old Riley Whitney and 8-year old Sofia Martinez, both of whom sat on a carpet in front of the first lady.

Wearing a green wrap coat, Melania entered the hospital atrium wearing a face mask but removed it upon sitting down to read the book, a move that was criticized by those who noted that it broke hospital policy at a time when cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are spiking.

As CNN reported, the hospital specifically requires that visitors wear masks "to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

A representative for the hospital told CNN that D.C. health regulations do not require people to wear a mask when "giving a speech for broadcast or an audience, provided no one is within six feet of the speaker."

The hospital staffer added that President Donald Trump's wife was more than 12 feet away from others at the hospital, and all of them were wearing masks.

Both the president and first lady tested positive for COVID-19 in October.

Though her husband was hospitalized for three days shortly after his diagnosis, Melania recovered more easily.

In a statement following her recovery, she said her symptoms included "body aches, a cough and headaches," and that she "felt extremely tired most of the time."

"I chose to go a more natural route in terms of medicine, opting more for vitamins and healthy food," she added. "We had wonderful caretakers around us and we will be forever grateful for the medical care and professional discretion we received from Dr. Conley and his team."

The couple later announced that their 14-year-old son, Barron, had also tested positive for the novel coronavirus, though he is said to have experienced no symptoms.

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