Vice President Mike Pence is being criticized after touring the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Tuesday without wearing a protective face mask, which was a violation of the facility’s strict new coronavirus policies.
Reports say Pence was informed by the clinic ahead of his visit that he would be required to wear a mask to protect patients.
After showing without one, however, the vice president was still allowed to be escorted around the facility, where he also met with a patient on camera.
Pence later defended his decision not to wear a mask during the visit, saying he was following the CDC guidelines.
“As Vice President of the United States I’m tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus,” Pence told reporters. “And since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.”
The Mayo Clinic deleted its own tweet about the episode about 30 minutes after saying it “had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today.”
the @MayoClinic has deleted this tweet about face masks and the @VP's visit. pic.twitter.com/0OJTwdy6x0— Eli Yokley (@eyokley) April 28, 2020
deleting a tweet generally. brings more attention to it. now we need to know who demanded it from @vp office. I'm sure during a pandemic they really needed this fire drill at the Mayo Clinic. https://t.co/6G1ABGsZZf— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) April 28, 2020
CNN footage from the facility Tuesday showed everyone else around Pence wearing a mask. Reporters traveling with the vice president also said that everyone in the building had on a mask except for Pence.
As he made the rounds, Pence thanked workers and exchanged elbow bumps and notably also stood closer than the six-feet of distance recommended by the administration’s top public health officials.
As part of his official business, Pence held talks with top doctors at the clinic, along with Minnesota Gov. Governor Tim Walz and Rep. Jim Hagedorn, a Republican whose district in Minnesota includes the city of Rochester, who all wore face masks, according to reports.
Vice President Mike Pence visits the Mayo Clinic without a face mask, despite policy https://t.co/D6CrUDEQQx pic.twitter.com/703BWlfwXl— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 28, 2020
PENCE flouts Mayo Clinic policy that everyone on campus wear a mask, even as he meets with staff and a patient. pic.twitter.com/kfo64KQDhU— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) April 28, 2020
Some voices on social media questioned whether Pence, who leads the administration’s coronavirus task force, set the right example for the country by not adhering to policies specifically designed to curb the spread of the virus.
Dear @VP Mike Pence: The mask is not to protect you, it’s to protect the patients at the Mayo Clinic. You had no right to violate hospital policy and put others at risk. https://t.co/HFyml3V66A— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) April 28, 2020
Pence was warned to wear a mask during a tour of the Mayo Clinic and refused. Do he and Trump think they’re invincible or is Pence afraid of Trump? What terrible role models for our nation. https://t.co/xKXWOWHuIt— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) April 28, 2020
Pence reportedly is tested for the virus on a weekly basis and has never tested positive. Although he appears healthy, many risk factors remain for himself and others, according to health officials who cite faulty diagnostic testing and the potential for new infections between tests.
Pence answering question about not wearing mask at Mayo Clinic. Notes he's been tested and found to be negative for the virus.— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) April 28, 2020
The latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta also recommend facial coverings especially because asymptomatic people could still potentially spread COVID-19.
Many voices on social media also criticized the Mayo Clinic for not taking a stronger stance and enforcing the policy which would have required the vice president put on a mask.
The policy on the renowned medical facility's website states: "All patients, visitors and staff are required to wear a mask to decrease the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Please bring your own face mask or covering to wear while at Mayo Clinic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has details on appropriate face coverings."
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard tore into Pence about the matter on Twitter.
“In Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic, he was trying to show us how ‘tough’ he is — but just showed his arrogance, lack of concern for others, and vanity.”
Earlier this month President Donald Trump also said he would not follow the CDC guidance to wear a face mask in public.
“I just don’t want to wear one myself, it’s a recommendation,” Trump said at the time.
— This is a developing story. Please return to AJC.com for updates.
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