Vice President Mike Pence met with an employee at a hospital without wearing a protective mask on Tuesday, appearing to go against the recommendation of the medical facility.
Pence toured the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to see how the medical facility is handling the novel coronavirus pandemic firsthand, with footage of his visit first posted by PBS NewsHour's Twitter account.
In the footage, Pence stands near a group of people, including a Mayo Clinic employee, while not wearing a facemask. However, the others in the video with Pence are wearing facemasks. In the video, it appears the employee is donating blood. The Minnesota Star Tribune reports that the employee was said to have "recovered from a mild case of COVID-19 and decided to donate plasma for therapy treatment to help other patients with the virus."
The Mayo Clinic tweeted shortly after the footage was posted, writing that the vice president was informed of the facility's policy before arriving for his visit.
"Part of our protocol for ensuring your safety is to require all patients, visitors and staff to wear a face covering or mask while at Mayo Clinic to guard against transmission of COVID-19," the policy, posted on the Mayo Clinic's website states.
A spokesperson for the Mayo Clinic told Newsweek in a statement that they "shared the masking policy with the vice president's office." The spokesperson did not answer the question as to why Pence was allowed to carry on with the tour without a mask.
Pence addressed the topic during a press conference with reporters. He said that CDC guidelines indicate masks are for those who are infected with the virus so that they do not spread the diseases.
"As Vice President of the United States I'm tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone around me is tested for the coronavirus," Pence said to reporters, adding, "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."
Newsweek reached out to Pence's communications office, but they did not respond before publication time.
Pence's visit comes after Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced on April 22 that the state was partnering with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota in a $36 million agreement that would increase the state's current diagnostic testing capacity to 20,000 samples a day in the coming weeks. The agreement will also allow the governor to create a lab that can help process the increase in testing samples.
"We are smothering this issue of testing with talent, I would argue, better than any place on this planet," Walz said at the time.
COVID-19 tests in the state are currently reserved for people who are in hospitals, health care workers and those who live in congregate facilities such as nursing homes. The goal of expanding the state's testing capacity in the agreement - which also includes increasing antibody tests to 15,000 a day - is to open up testing to anyone.
Minnesota has 4,181 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and has seen 301 total deaths thus far, according to the state's Department of Health website.
Update 4/28/20, 4:25 p.m. EDT: Updated to include a statement from a Mayo Clinic spokesperson and information about the person seen in the footage with Vice President Mike Pence during his tour.