Pence visits Mayo Clinic, defends not wearing face mask

Vice President Mike Pence visited Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minn., April 28 and learned about the institution's COVID-19 research and testing efforts, according to the Star Tribune.

Mr. Pence, who leads the White House Corona­virus Task Force, toured Mayo's COVID-19 testing labs with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and others. During his visit, he praised Mayo's COVID-19 efforts, calling them a "whole-of-Minnesota approach"; spoke with a clinic employee who said he had recovered from a "mild" COVID-19 case; and received an overview of how Mayo developed its diagnostic testing, according to the Tribune.

"We are grateful that @VP and @GovTimWalz visited Mayo Clinic today to hear about our work fighting the #COVID19 pandemic," Mayo tweeted the day of the tour. "We look forward to continued collaboration to develop essential testing and treatment for our patients and communities."

While Mr. Pence received an overview of Mayo's efforts, various news sources have also reported that Mr. Pence did not wear a face mask during the tour to prevent transmission. In a since-deleted tweet, Mayo said it notified the vice president before his arrival of its policy that all visitors wear face masks, according to the Tribune.

Mr. Pence explained his decision to forgo a face mask by saying a mask wasn't necessary because he — and everyone around him — is tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis, the newspaper reported. "And since I don't have the coronavirus, 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," Mr. Pence told news outlets, noting that federal guidelines say masks mostly prevent people who have the virus from spreading it.  

Mr. Pence's trip to Mayo comes as Mr. Walz announced, along with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota, a $36 million partnership for rapid, widespread COVID-19 testing — with capacity to boost molecular testing to as many as 20,000 people daily. Mayo Clinic's national reference laboratory already has conducted 150,000 molecular COVID-19 diagnostic tests in the U.S., according to the Tribune

Read the full Tribune report here.


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