Mike Pence failed to wear a mask while visiting the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota today, even though officials at the health care facility told him masks were required.
The vice president, who leads the national Coronavirus Task Force, was at the clinic to observe its research to combat COVID-19, and he interacted with patients and staff, CNBC reports. Video from a journalist covering the event shows everyone wearing a mask except Pence, surrounded by about 10 people, including a patient.
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
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear cloth masks while in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Masks give the wearer and others some protection against contagion by controlling exposure to droplets from coughs, sneezes, or just talking.
Some state and local governments as well as private businesses have made the wearing of masks or other face coverings mandatory in certain settings. The Mayo Clinic, one of the top health care providers in the nation, is one of them, requiring all staff, patients, and visitors to cover their faces. It tweeted that Pence had been informed of the policy before his tour, then deleted the tweet within about half an hour, but it has been preserved in screen shots.
Pence’s boss, Donald Trump, has said he would not wear a mask despite the CDC guidance. “Somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk [the special desk in the office], the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know, I don’t see it for myself,” he said about three weeks ago.
Pence later told reporters that he decided to forgo the mask because he is tested frequently for COVID-19 and does not have it, CNN reports. "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," he said.
"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," he added. The protective masks, of course, do not cover the eyes.
The clinic posted a tweet praising Pence.
It drew several angry replies, with comments shaming the clinic for not enforcing the mask policy with Pence, saying it's "complicit in the Trump administration's PR efforts," and expressing anger on the part of health care workers.