Vice President Mike Pence is checking out the Mayo Clinic's coronavirus testing facilities in Minnesota on Tuesday, but his visit risks being overshadowed by his decision not to wear a face mask in the medical facility.
Live coverage from the Rochester institution showed that Pence was the only dignitary not to wear a protective face mask as he toured the hospital's COVID-19 facilities, including in front of a Mayo employee who has donated plasma having already experienced a case of COVID-19.
Others in attendance, including Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota 1st District Rep. Jim Hagedorn – who has Stage 4 kidney cancer, were wearing masks, as is hospital policy for all visitors.
The controversy surrounding the VP's decision forced the Mayo Clinic to issue a tweet that has been shared more than 1,500 times as of 2 p.m., clarifying that it had informed the vice president of the hospital's mask policy.
This tweet was deleted about 40 minutes later. BMTN reached out to the Mayo to ask why, and received a response that basically repeated the tweet, saying: "Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP’s office."
Star Tribune reporter Briana Bierschbach noted that Pence was the only person she had seen at the hospital Tuesday without a mask, and later shared a comment from Pence's office explaining his decision.
Pence is in town to get a closer look at the Mayo's growing testing capacity, which showed enable Minnesota to ramp up COVID-19 testing to handle 20,000 a day.
He did observe social distancing protocol to the extent that he elbow-bumped with those at the Mayo, as opposed to a hand shake.
The CDC is advising the wearing of masks or cloth face coverings to limit the spread of COVID-19. You can find its guidance here.