US vice president Mike Pence chose not to wear a face mask during a tour of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, an apparent violation of the world-renowned medical centre’s policy requiring them.
Video feeds show Mr Pence did not wear a mask when he met a Mayo employee who has recovered from Covid-19 and is now donating plasma, even though all other people in the room appeared to be wearing one.
He was also without a mask when he visited a lab where Mayo conducts coronavirus tests.
Mr Pence was the only participant not to wear a mask during a round-table discussion on Mayo’s coronavirus testing and research programmes. All other participants did, including Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn, Mayo officials, state governor Tim Walz and federal politician Jim Hagedorn.
Mayo tweeted that it had informed the vice president of its mask policy before his arrival, but the tweet was later removed.
Mayo officials did not directly respond to a request for comment on why it was removed, or at whose request. “Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP’s office,” the health care system said in its response.
Mr Pence explained his decision by stressing he had been frequently tested for the virus.
“As vice president of the United States I’m tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus,” Mr Pence said, adding that he is following Centres for Disease Control guidelines, which indicate that the mask is good for preventing the spread of the virus by those who have it.
“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 is not the only White House official who has shown a reluctance for face masks.
When President Donald Trump announced new federal guidelines recommending Americans wear face coverings in public, he immediately said he had no intention of following that advice himself, saying: “I’m choosing not to do it.”
Mr Pence also went without a mask a week earlier when he visited a GE Healthcare facility that makes ventilators.
Some at the event in Madison, Wisconsin, wore masks and others did not.
The White House said then that Mr Pence had tested negative for the coronavirus and suggested that under the guidelines developed by the coronavirus taskforce there was no need for him to wear a mask.