Pence defends not wearing face mask during Mayo Clinic visit

Vice President Pence on Tuesday defended his decision not to wear a face covering during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, despite the facility's policy requiring all visitors to have one.

The vice president said he was following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, which say face coverings are intended to prevent those who may have the virus but are asymptomatic from spreading it to others.

"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 traveling with him.

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"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," he added.

Pence was the only individual spotted without a mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic, where he participated in a tour and held a roundtable with physicians, nurses and researchers. Everyone else seen on camera with Pence had masks on, including Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

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 CDC. The clinic said it would provide masks for those who did not bring their own.

On Tuesday the 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.

President Trump announced on April 3 the new CDC guidance encouraging the use of masks to try to cut down on the spread of the coronavirus, particularly from those who may be asymptomatic. But Trump, Pence and other top administration officials have seldom been seen wearing face coverings in public settings.