On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to highlight the medical center’s research and testing efforts around the coronavirus. During his trip, he was seen without a mask, in spite of the clinic’s request that all visitors wear face masks to prevent transmission.
That day, officials for the Mayo Clinic tweeted the following statement: “Mayo Clinic had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today.”
The tweet was soon deleted.
On its web page, the Mayo Clinic offers explicit guidance for visitors: “Mayo Clinic is requiring all patients, visitors and staff to wear a face covering or mask to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Here’s what you need to know:
WATCH: Pence Visits Mayo Clinic Without Required Face Mask
Pence visited the Mayo Clinic on Tuesday following an announcement from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, which confirmed a new partnership between the clinic and the University of Minnesota to increase virus testing efforts in the state.
As seen in the video above, Pence was accompanied by several other officials, all of whom wore face masks.
At one point during the visit, Pence said, “The president and I often talk about a whole of America approach, this is a whole of Minnesota approach.” He did not offer an explanation for why he chose not to wear a face mask, going against general medical advice, as well as the explicit request of the clinic.
Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of a face mask in public areas. However, Trump, like Pence, has shown a reticence for following these guidelines. When the Trump administration released its guidelines on masks, Trump said he wasn’t going to follow the guidelines himself. He explained, “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”
As soon as the video of Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic was released, criticisms began to pour in. Some of it was directed at the Mayo Clinic, as people asked why the clinic had given the vice president “special treatment,” and whether the man pictured on a hospital bed in the video was a COVID-19 patient.
One person tweeted to the Mayo Clinic, “…was that a patient sitting in front of VP Pence as he spoke without a mask? If so, did you meet the standard of care that patient was entitled to expect from you?”
Others questioned the clinic’s decision to delete its tweet about Pence’s decision not to wear a face mask. One person tweeted, “Just a small piece of advice to the social media director at the Mayo. Clinic: People can see when you delete your tweets.”
At one point during the day, Pence sat in at a live conference with seven other Minnesota officials, including the governor. Pence was the only person who did not wear a mask.
While Trump and Pence have displayed ambivalence, at best, towards wearing face masks, First Lady Melania Trump has actively encouraged people to follow face mask guidelines through her social media platforms, posting pictures of herself wearing a mask alongside captions reminding people to “wear cloth face coverings” whenever in public.