Vice President Mike Pence. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo
Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday said that he should have worn a mask when visiting the Mayo Clinic, a reversal that came after a harsh backlash for not adhering to the hospital’s policy during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic and I wore it when I visited the ventilator plant in Indiana” two days later, Pence said at a Fox News virtual town hall on Sunday, nodding sheepishly.
Pence on Tuesday toured the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he met with hospital staff and a patient. According to reporters who were there, every other person present wore a mask.
The vice president has said since he is constantly tested for coronavirus and since the mask prevents people from transmitting the virus, he didn’t believe he had to wear one. He reiterated that belief at Sunday’s town hall.
But his decision not to don a mask at the health center was widely criticized on social media, including by many public health experts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended that all Americans wear cloth face masks in public settings where social distancing might be difficult. The Mayo Clinic on April 13 announced its own policy requiring that visitors wear masks.
Karen Pence, the vice president’s wife, defended her husband, saying he was unaware of the clinic’s rule. But a Mayo Clinic spokesperson told POLITICO that Pence and his team had been briefed about the mask policy prior to arriving.
The clinic’s Twitter account had put out a statement saying the same, before later deleting it and instead posting: “We look forward to continued collaboration to develop essential testing and treatment for our patients and communities.”
On Sunday, Pence said, “It really is a statement about the American people, the way people have been willing to step forward, practice social distancing, wear masks in settings where they can’t do that.”
He added, “As we continue to practice those principles, all of us together, I know we’ll get through this.”