Vice President Pence on Tuesday visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where he stuck out for his decision not to wear a face covering, flouting the medical facility's policy in the process.
Pence visited the clinic in Rochester to learn about how physicians there are supporting research and treatment surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Footage of Pence standing alongside clinic staff and a patient donating blood quickly made the rounds on social media as the vice president was the lone individual in the frame not sporting a mask.
VP Pence at Mayo Clinic Minnesota ... pic.twitter.com/wahnuFLc82— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) April 28, 2020
The vice president later presided over a roundtable discussion with Mayo Clinic officials to discuss their efforts to fight the coronavirus. Pence still did not wear a mask, even as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn and every other individual at the table did.
The Mayo Clinic issued guidance on April 13 requiring all patients and visitors to wear a face covering or mask in accordance with updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). The clinic said it would provide masks for those who did not bring their own.
The Mayo Clinic tweeted, then deleted, a message that it informed Pence of its masking policy prior to his arrival in Rochester.
"Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP’s office," the clinic said in an emailed statement after deleting the tweet.
Pence defended his decision to reporters traveling with him to Minnesota.
“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, noting the CDC guidance is intended to prevent those who have the virus from spreading it.
“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 healthcare personnel and look them in the eye and say thank you," he added.
Pence and other top administration officials have seldom been seen wearing face coverings in public settings. President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE announced on April 3 the new CDC guidance encouraging the use of masks to try and cut down on the spread of the coronavirus, particularly from those who may be asymptomatic.
But Trump immediately undercut the advice by insisting he would not wear one himself.
"I don't know, somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk ... I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know," he said. "Somehow, I don't see it for myself. I just don’t. Maybe I'll change my mind, but this will pass and hopefully it'll pass very quickly."
The decision has been even more noticeable as Pence resumes traveling. The vice president, who is leading the federal response to the pandemic, was greeted in Colorado earlier this month by a mask-wearing Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Colorado trucker's case provides pathways to revive pardon power Biden addresses Coloradans after wildfires: 'Incredible courage and resolve' MORE (D) but did not have one on himself.
Upon landing in Rochester on Tuesday, a masked Gov. Tim WalzTim WalzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden calls for omicron concern, but not panic Minnesota governor announces positive COVID-19 test Politicians and celebrities who have tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the holidays MORE (D) met a bare-faced Pence on the tarmac.
Updated at 4:36 p.m.