Vice President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on Tuesday — and notably did so without wearing a mask.
In a since-deleted tweet, the Mayo Clinic said it informed Pence of its policy requiring visitors to wears masks before his visit. Pence, however, didn’t follow it.
In choosing not to wear a mask, Pence not only ignored the Mayo’s policy, he ignored the recommendations of his own government, which has advised Americans to wear face coverings in public to slow the spread of Covid-19.
A press pool video of Pence’s visit shows everyone in Pence’s entourage wearing a mask, with him being the notable exception.
As the footage circulated on Twitter, the Mayo’s verified Twitter account tweeted that Pence was warned about the policy but nevertheless persisted. That tweet, however, was deleted a short time later.
In response to questions about why Pence wasn’t wearing a mask, the Mayo Clinic tweeted this earlier. Then they deleted it. So that’s normal. pic.twitter.com/7peNxMxx7t— shauna (@goldengateblond) April 28, 2020
Later Tuesday, the Mayo’s Twitter account posted a tweet blandly expressing gratefulness for Pence’s visit.
We are grateful that @VP and @GovTimWalz visited Mayo Clinic today to hear about our work fighting the #COVID19 pandemic. We look forward to continued collaboration to develop essential testing and treatment for our patients and communities.— Mayo Clinic (@MayoClinic) April 28, 2020
CNBC reports that a Mayo spokesperson reiterated the since-deleted tweet by saying the clinic “shared the masking policy with the VP’s office,” but did not respond to a question about why the tweet was scrubbed. Pence’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email from Vox seeking comment.
The Mayo Clinic’s website indicates that, as of April 13, all patients and visitors were required to wear masks.
“Patients and visitors are asked to bring their own face covering or mask to wear. If a patient or visitor does not have a mask, Mayo Clinic will provide one,” it says.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that “Pence ignored the clinic’s request that all visitors don face masks to prevent transmission, including [Minnesota] Gov. Tim Walz and others on the tour.”
Pence and President Donald Trump appear to be on the same page when it comes to masks. Notably, when Trump announced the administration’s mask guidance during a news conference on April 3, he said he wouldn’t follow it.
“I just don’t want to wear one myself, it’s a recommendation,” Trump said at the time. “Somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, 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.”
REPORTER: Why are you opposed to wearing a mask?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 3, 2020
TRUMP: "I just don't want to wear one myself ... I'm feeling good. I just don't want to be doing-- somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk. The great Resolute Desk ... I don't see it for myself." pic.twitter.com/7dWmQQY3Aw
White House aides recently told the New York Times that Pence doesn’t feel like he has to wear a mask in public because he is regularly tested for the coronavirus. But that argument is flawed for a variety of reasons, including that coronavirus tests are occasionally inaccurate and Pence could contract (and spread) the virus between tests. By refusing to wear one at the Mayo Clinic, he could have unwittingly spread the virus to patients and workers there; and should he have become infected with the virus, he could be a source of community spread at the White House.
Trump and Pence’s aversion to masks stands in contrast to other world leaders ranging from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to French President Emmanuel Macron to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, all of whom have been photographed wearing masks in public.