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.
VP Pence does not wear a mask during Tuesday’s visit to the Mayo Clinic, which is requiring all patients and visitors to wear a face covering or mask in effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/qIddFN9UTW
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 28, 2020
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."
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a former White House medical adviser, says Vice President Mike Pence's decision to not wear a mask as he toured the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota was "tone-deaf" and "disgraceful." https://t.co/7UZfg302Jk pic.twitter.com/8Uo3bMlOsN
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) April 29, 2020
"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."