Mike Pence Defends His Decision Not to Wear Face Mask During Mayo Clinic Visit

Pence opted not to wear a protective face mask while touring the Mayo Clinic on Tuesday

Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence (center) speaks to medical professionals at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota last Tuesday, April 28. Photo: Jim Mone/AP/Shutterstock

Vice President Mike Pence is speaking out following his visit to Mayo Clinic, during which he was seen without a protective face mask despite the medical facility's policy for visitors to wear one amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The 60-year-old opted not to wear a mask while touring the Minnesota hospital on Tuesday. Though many who was visiting the center with the politician — including Food and Drug Administration head Stephen Hahn — wore a mask per the facility's guidelines, Pence went bare-faced as he met with workers and conferred with doctors.

He also did not wear a mask while speaking to a Mayo Clinic employee who was donating plasma after recovering from COVID-19.

“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 told reporters following the visit, citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicate wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the virus by those who have 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 continued.

Mike Pence. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Per the CDC's website, the agency recommends "wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain."

The Mayo Clinic's website also states that their current protocols "require all patients, visitors and staff to wear a face covering or mask while at Mayo Clinic to guard against transmission of COVID-19."

According to NBC News, the Mayo Clinic reiterated its guidelines while Pence was still inside the facility with doctors and patients, writing in a since-deleted tweet, "Mayo Clinic had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today."

Reporters who accompanied Pence on the tour said he was the only person seen inside the facility without a face covering.

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In early April, the CDC issued out a new advisory for Americans to wear non-medical, cloth face masks if they go out in public. When announcing the new guidance, President Donald Trump said that he personally would not be following the recommendation.

“The CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure,” Trump, 73, announced before immediately following up by saying, “It’s voluntary, so you don’t have to do it.”

“This is voluntary,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

As of Tuesday, there have been at least 1,010,641 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 52,927 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.

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