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'Owes an Apology to Every Essential Worker': Pence Under Fire for Refusing to Wear Face Mask at Mayo Clinic

"When I warned everyone in February that Pence doesn't believe in science and shouldn't be in charge of Covid response, I meant it," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Vice President Mike Pence visits Mayo Clinic headquarters in Rochester, Minnesota on April 28, 2020. (Photo: PBS/Screengrab)

In violation of Mayo Clinic policy, Vice President Mike Pence refused to wear a face mask while visiting the organization's Minnesota headquarters Tuesday and interacting with patients and workers, drawing outrage from medical professionals who said he recklessly increased the risk of spreading Covid-19.

"It is a selfish display by Mike Pence disregarding Mayo Clinic policy by not wearing a mask," tweeted Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare. "As an ER doc, on behalf of the staff with whom I work, I think he owes an apology to every essential worker keeping things going and trying not to get sick."

Video footage of a mask-less Pence walking around inside the facility and speaking with employees quickly went viral on social media. A Mayo Clinic spokesperson said Pence and his staff were made "aware of our policy regarding masking." Everyone in Pence's entourage except the vice president himself wore a face covering.

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CNN reported that Pence "did avoid shaking hands; he elbow-bumped instead with doctors and officials."

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"But he was mask-less as he thanked workers, conferred with hospital administrators, and spoke with a Mayo Clinic employee who was donating plasma after being diagnosed with Covid-19 at the end of March," CNN noted.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that people wear masks in public, but it is not a federal requirement. President Donald Trump has not followed the CDC guidelines.

In response to outrage over his flouting of the Mayo Clinic's clear safety protocol, Pence told reporters that he didn't wear a mask because he is "tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus."

"Since I don't have the coronavirus," Pence said, "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."

"When I warned everyone in February that Pence doesn't believe in science and shouldn't be in charge of Covid response, I meant it," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). "But I admit I did not have 'VP visits Covid patients without wearing a mask' on my bingo board."

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