Vice President Pence visits Mayo Clinic to learn about new testing; does not wear mask on tour

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Vice President Mike Pence visited Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic on Tuesday to learn about efforts to boost the state’s testing capacity.

Pence was in Rochester and toured the Mayo Clinic facilities supporting COVID-19 research and treatment.

During the tour, Pence was not wearing a mask, an apparent violation of the medical center’s policy requiring them.

Pence was the only participant not to wear a mask during a roundtable discussion on Mayo’s coronavirus testing and research programs as well. All the other participants did, including Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn, top Mayo officials, Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

Mayo said in a statement, "Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP’s office."

Pence responded saying:

“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,” he told reporters, saying he is following CDC 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.”

Walz joined Pence on the tour and also walked him through the state’s new testing strategy.

Mayo, along with Walz, state leaders and the University of Minnesota, announced a partnership last week to drastically ramp up COVID-19 testing in the state.

The partnership is in an effort to boost the state’s capacity to 20,000 tests a day. It’s an approach that leverages health institutions that not all states can match. Experts say a big increase is needed to safely reopen the economy.

According to the Vice President’s office, after the tour, he returned to Washington, D.C.

The Associated Press contributed to this story