Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic on Tuesday upset a lot of people after images released from the event demonstrated he did not wear a mask while touring the facility.
Pictures quickly circulated on social media showing how Pence toured the clinic, being one of the only individuals during the ordeal to not be wearing a mask (medical or fabric) to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus while he was there. After it became clear that the imagery was receiving a lot of criticism online, Pence later explained to reporters his rationale for not wearing a mask.
“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,” Pence explained.
He also claimed to be following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. But the CDC has, for more than a few weeks now, recommended that masks be worn, particularly in any setting where social distancing norms can’t be adhered to.
It wasn’t as if Pence wasn’t warned ahead of time either, as the Mayo Clinic reportedly sent the vice president a list of its policies ahead of his scheduled visit, which included the requirement that everyone inside of its facilities wear a mask.
VP Pence does not wear a mask during Tuesday’s visit to the Mayo Clinic, which is requiring all patients and visitors to wear a face covering or mask in effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/qIddFN9UTW
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 28, 2020
While it’s good that the vice president is getting tested regularly, Pence’s explanation is faulty for a number of reasons. A person can get sick, for example, between tests for the disease (what Pence means by being tested on a “regular basis,” including how often that happens, is itself unclear). Perhaps more worrisome, an individual can get infected by the coronavirus and be asymptomatic between tests, and spread the disease to others that way.
What’s more, there’s also a chance that Pence’s test results could have displayed a false negative. Some tests that claim to produce a quick answer on whether one has COVID-19 or not have been found to produce such outcomes. A test in Cleveland, for example, was found to have a false negative rate of 14.8 percent. Individuals are advised to behave as if they have the disease, even if they have received a test that came back negative.
Pence’s refusal to wear a mask demonstrates a propensity of this administration to take a hypocritical stance on the issue. While the CDC’s guidelines clearly state individuals should wear a mask in public settings, neither Pence nor President Donald Trump seem to be following those instructions.
“This is voluntary. I don’t think I’m gonna’ be doing it,” Trump said earlier in April when the guidelines were announced.
His reasoning behind not following the rules seemed to be based in vanity, as he worried how he might appear to foreign dignitaries while wearing a facial covering.
“I just don’t wanna’ be doing — I dunno somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute desk … I think, uh, wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens … I dunno, somehow, I don’t see it for myself,” Trump explained.
Trump on Tuesday also appeared to joke around when it came to wearing masks within public settings, although his comments made less of a splash than did Pence’s refusal to wear a mask in a health care facility.
During an event at the White House meant to tout the Paycheck Protection Program, which featured a number of business owners from across the country, neither Trump nor other administration members (including daughter/adviser Ivanka Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin) wore a mask, even though they came within a few feet of others at the podium.
According to media reports, it appeared as though only one member of the business community invited to the event wore a mask at all, although they didn’t wear it for the entire time. Trump made note of that person’s choice, and tried to make light of it.
“Put that mask on, the way you had it,” Trump said to that individual. He then shook his head and smiled, with some in the audience laughing at his comments.
Interestingly, days before Pence’s visit there, the Mayo Clinic produced an online article about the efficacy of masks to reduce infection from the coronavirus. “Yes, face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the disease,” that article stated.