The US vice president Mike Pence has been pictured touring a medical research facility without wearing a mask, in direct contravention of the clinic’s own policy and advice from the US government’s body for disease control.
Mr Pence was the only person not wearing a mask during the visit to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, which is at the forefront of COVID-19 research in the US.
He was pictured meeting a Mayo employee who is in the process of recovering from coronavirus and was also maskless when he went to the lab where the institute conducts tests on the disease.
On its website the clinic states: “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.”
In a tweet that was subsequently removed, Mayo said it had informed the vice president of its mask policy before his arrival.
Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans wear “cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain”.
Vice President Pence defended his decision not to wear a mask by saying he was regularly 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,” he said.
He went on: “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’.”
In refusing to wear a mask Mr Pence is following the lead of his boss.
On 4 April President Trump said he doubted he would wear one. “Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I just don’t see it.”