US Vice-President Pence flouts rule on masks
US Vice-President Mike Pence has visited a top US hospital without wearing a mask, despite the medical centre’s own rules that visitors should wear personal protective equipment.
Pence appeared to be the only person present without a facial covering at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
In a deleted tweet, the clinic said the vice-president had been notified in advance of its policy requiring masks.
Pence leads the White House coronavirus taskforce. He defended his decision as necessary in order to meet with staff and patients.
The US government’s own coronavirus-prevention advice is that people should wear face coverings “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain”.
The Mayo Clinic itself requires all patients and visitors to its medical centres to wear a mask or face covering.
Pence was accompanied by commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration Dr Stephen Hahn, who wore a mask for the trip.
The visit came on the same day that the US coronavirus caseload topped one million and the number of deaths surpassed 57,000.
Asked by a reporter on Tuesday to explain why he did not wear a mask, the vice-president said he and everyone around him are regularly tested for the coronavirus.
“When the CDC issued guidelines about wearing a mask, it was their recognition that people that may have the coronavirus could prevent the possibility of conveying the virus to someone else by wearing a mask,” he said.
“And since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it would 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.”
Pence chose to forgo a mask earlier this month while greeting Colorado Governor Jared Polis—who did don a facial covering—on their way to the Air Force Graduation ceremony.
An aide to Pence was the first White House member to test positive for the virus in late March. President Donald Trump has himself previously said he has no plans to wear a mask.
Meanwhile, Trump has ordered meat processing plants to stay open to protect the nation’s food supply amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He invoked a Korean War-era law from the 1950s to mandate that the plants continue to function, amid industry warnings of strain on the supply chain.
An estimated 3,300 US meatpacking workers have been diagnosed with coronavirus and 20 have died. The UN last month warned the emergency threatened global food supply chains. -BBC