Vice President Mike Pence has faced criticism for not wearing a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, despite the hospital requiring all visitors to wear a mask in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Pence was accompanied by US Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr Stephen Hahn, who did wear a mask. Members of staff as well as patients were also wearing masks.
In a since-deleted tweet, the clinic said that the Vice President had been informed of the policy requiring masks.
"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 Mayo Clinic's website reads. "If a patient or visitor does not have a mask, Mayo Clinic will provide one."
The US government also advises people to wear face coverings "in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain."
Asked by a reporter why he had decided not to wear a mask, Vice President Pence said that 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."
The decision attracted criticism from many, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who wrote: "When I warned everyone in *February* that Pence doesn’t believe in science and shouldn’t be in charge of COVID response, I meant it. But I admit I did not have “VP visits COVID patients without wearing a mask” on my bingo board."
CNN anchor Don Lemon also decided to wear a mask to ridicule Pence's point that he wanted to look healthcare workers in the eyes.
"Can you see my eyes?" Lemon asked. "It's not an eye mask we're talking about. This is ridiculous."
Stacey Abrams was also quick to criticize Pence over the move.
WATCH: Stacey Abrams reacts to VP Pence's choice to not wear a face mask during Mayo Clinic tour.— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 29, 2020
"Mike Pence did that because he was trying to play to an audience of one —the man who has ruined our country in a moment where we needed his leadership the most." pic.twitter.com/XtihHzQdXb
One Twitter user asked: "Mike Pence said he didn’t wear a mask because he wanted to look healthcare workers in the eyes... have I been wearing my mask wrong this whole time?!?"
Mike Pence said he didn’t wear a mask because he wanted to look healthcare workers in the eyes...have I been wearing my mask wrong this whole time?!?— Blair Waldorf, MD (@Jack_and_Diet) April 28, 2020
And yes, someone went ahead and photoshopped this for us.
"By not wearing a mask, Mike Pence puts all Americans in danger—because Trump supporters will never wear a mask now," another user remarked.
"Mike Pence visited Mayo Clinic patients and he didn’t wear a mask," another user added. "I really didn’t expect more from the guy who doesn’t think smoking causes cancer and who believes conversion therapy works."
The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org.