Joe Biden has been slammed for taking off his face mask while standing next to an 81-year-old war hero – despite his wife Jill testing positive for COVID the day before.
The President, who was awarding a Congressional Medal of Honor to Captain Larry Taylor, entered the White House wearing a black face mask, but removed it during the prayer portion of the ceremony.
He did not replace it when he stood beside Taylor for four minutes, and fastened the medal around his neck.
The president remains negative after being tested on Monday night and Tuesday morning and shows no symptoms.
President Joe Biden awards the Medal of Honor to Capt. Larry Taylor, an Army pilot from the Vietnam War who risked his life to rescue a reconnaissance team that was about to be overrun by the enemy
Biden escorts Medal of Honor recipient retired Army Captain Larry Taylor – they are both wearing face masks as they enter the East Room
The White House said before the event he would follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevent guidelines when it comes to testing and masking.
But his extended time in close proximity to Taylor raised eyebrows.
‘I’m floored by his behavior. There’s no point walking in masked to then unmask & put everyone at risk,’ remarked one woman.
President Biden removes his face mask during the ceremony
President Biden removed his face covering to award the Medal of Honor to Captain Taylor
‘I hope their families sue if they get sick,’ said another critic.
Another shared on Twitter a screenshot of an unmasked Biden standing next to an unmasked Taylor, and said: ‘Look at this.’
One commented: ‘He doesn’t seem very consistent in his mask wearing, unfortunately.’
The video of Biden placing the medal around Taylor’s neck was shared online, with one remarking: ‘Aaaaand he took it right off to breathe on an elderly veteran’s neck.’
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would remove his mask indoors when ‘sufficiently’ distanced from others.
‘He will be masking while indoors and around people in alignment with CDC guidance and as as has been the practice in the past.
‘The President will remove his mask when sufficiently distance from others indoors and while outside as well,’ she said on Tuesday, before the ceremony.
The president didn’t put his mask back on to walk out of the East Room but did give a thumbs’ up when asked how his wife was doing, saying she was ‘well.’
Meanwhile, Jill Biden missed the first day of school on Tuesday. The first lady, who teaches English at the Northern Virginia Community College, is arranging a substitute for her classes.
‘She’s working with NOVA to ensure her classes are covered by a substitute,’ her office said.
The first lady remains at the couple’s Rehoboth Beach home, which is where she was when she tested positive.
The Bidens spent a long holiday weekend at their vacation house and traveled to Florida together on Saturday to see damage from Hurricane Idalia.
Jill Biden ‘is experiencing mild symptoms and will remain in Delaware for the week. President Biden tested negative last night for COVID-19 and tested negative again today. He’s not experiencing any symptoms,’ Jean-Pierre noted.
‘There are currently no updates to the White House COVID-19 protocols,’ she noted.
COVID cases are on the rise throughout the country.
Nationwide COVID hospitalizations increased by nearly 19% in a single week and deaths by more than 21%, according to late August data from the CDC.
There are two new variants: the Omicron variant EG.5, nicknamed Eris, has become dominant in the U.S., while BA.2.86 is starting to spread.
The first lady, 72, usually teaches classes on Tuesday and Thursday. It’s unclear when she will return to the White House and her regular schedule.
Jill Biden also was scheduled to attend a dinner on Tuesday night for U.S. athletes competing at the Invictus Games, the games for wound warriors founded by Prince Harry.
She had to cancel that appearance.
President Joe Biden remains negative for COVID while Jill Biden missed the first day of school after testing positive
President Biden remains negative despite the close contact with his wife.
The couple spent Sunday night together at their Rehoboth Beach home before Joe flew to Philadelphia Monday to mark Labor Day with a speech to union workers.
In a statement released Monday, Jill’s spokesman Elizabeth Alexander said: ‘This evening, the First Lady tested positive for COVID-19.
‘She is currently experiencing only mild symptoms. She will remain at their home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware,’ Alexander said.
Jill Biden previously had COVID last August and got stuck at the property the couple had vacationed at on Kiawah Island in South Carolina.
She was prescribed the antiviral Paxlovid and tested positive with a rebound case of COVID several days later.
President Biden tested positive for COVID last July. He also was treated with Paxlovid and suffered a rebound case days later.
Both the president and first lady are vaccinated and boosted.
The president is expected to leave Thursday for the G20 summit in New Delhi, India.
‘All travelers including the President will test before traveling to India,’ Jean-Pierre said, noting that Biden will test on a ‘regular cadence.’
She would address questions on what happens if Biden tests negative in route to the trip or how often he would test while there.
The first lady was not expected to attend.
Jill Biden visiting a school in Wisconsin last week
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveled to Florida together on Saturday
While COVID cases are on the rise, neither the president nor the first lady have worn a mask in public recently.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently turned heads by conceding that data was lacking on whether masks stopped the spread of the virus.
‘When you’re talking about the effect on the epidemic or the pandemic as a whole, the data are less strong,’ Fauci recently said on CNN.
‘But there are other studies, that show at an individual level, for individuals, they might be protective.’