While Mike Pence's mask-less faux-pas dominated the early headlines out of Rochester on Tuesday, the vice-president left Minnesota with praise for the response to the coronavirus pandemic by the state and its healthcare partners.
Pence visited Mayo Clinic in Rochester Tuesday to learn about the clinic’s COVID-19 testing, treatment and research, and was joined by Gov. Tim Walz and Congressman Jim Hagedorn.
Mayo Clinic President and CEO Gianrico Farrugia gave the officials a tour of the facilities before Mayo leaders went over the clinic’s work and answered questions at a round table.
Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota recently announced a plan to roll out 20,000 tests per day for Minnesotans in the coming weeks, with the state winning praise from Pence for its "whole-of-Minnesota" approach.
“The fact that you’ve made the progress that you’ve made… is a testament I know you would say to the people of Minnesota,” Pence said at the roundtable. “They have our congratulations and our thanks.”
Farrugia said Mayo’s COVID-19 work consists of making sure patients have access to trials, research, testing and practice.
And the hospital's executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, Amy Williams, said the clinic has had success reducing the number of ICU deaths thanks in part to new clinical trials.
Mayo is working on nine clinical trials for COVID-19 therapies, said Andrew Badley, an infectious disease specialist at the clinic. Currently, 90 percent of COVID-19 patients in the Mayo system are on a clinical trial, he said.
One of Mayo’s COVID-19 therapies is convalescent plasma. This therapy takes plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient and transfers it into a sick patient. The antibodies from the recovered patient can help treat the current patient.
Pence also pointed out a federal decision that allows doctors to practice across state lines during the crisis. As Mayo doctors work in hot spots like New York, its telehealth practice has significantly increased.
In fact, Mayo is performing more telehealth practice every day than the entire year of 2019, Farraugia said.
On Monday, 365 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Minnesota, a new single-day record, which comes amid an increase in testing.