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Ignoring Hospital Policy, Vice President Pence Tours Mayo Clinic Without Mask

3 minute read

Video footage of Vice President Mike Pence‘s visit to the Mayo Clinic on Tuesday shows he did not wear any protective garments while receiving a tour of the medical center’s facilities, despite requirements that all patients and visitors wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus.

“Patients and visitors are asked to bring their own face covering or mask to wear. If a patient or visitor does not have a mask, Mayo Clinic will provide one,” the Mayo Clinic said in an April 13 press release.

“Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP’s office,” the Mayo Clinic said in a statement provided to TIME.

The Mayo Clinic is located in Rochester, Minn., and is one of the leading sites on coronavirus research. Pence — who leads the White House’s coronavirus task force — visited the center’s blood and plasma donation center to learn about its “moon-shot” testing program, which aims to increase Minnesota’s testing capability to 20,000 tests a day.

Video shows at one point at least ten people — including a patient — wearing masks around Pence, while he remained mask-less. Although he reportedly avoided shaking hands (choosing instead to bump elbows), CNN reports that Pence was, in fact, the only person in the entire building not wearing a mask. His tour group also appears to not have been standing the recommended 6 feet apart.

After criticism of both Pence’s behavior and the Clinic’s decision to allow him to enter without a mask began spreading online, the Mayo Clinic tweeted at 2:18 p.m. that, “Mayo Clinic had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today.” The tweet has since been deleted.

Read more: The Ethics of Wearing (or Not Wearing) a Face Mask During the Coronavirus Pandemic

“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 told reporters Tuesday afternoon. He added that he was following CDC guidelines on mask usage, specifically that masks are recommended for people who have — or believe they may have — contracted the coronavirus to minimize the potential for its spread.

In early April, however the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance to recommend that the general public — including people who are not exhibiting any coronavirus symptoms — wear non-medical face masks or “cloth face covers” when in public to prevent potential transmission.

While First Lady Melania Trump has released a video encouraging Americans to wear face masks, President Trump has said he does not plan to follow the CDC’s guidance.

“Since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me to be here,” Pence told reporters, “to be able to speak to these researchers these incredible healthcare personnel and look them in the eye and say thank you.”

In a subsequent tweet, the Clinic that it was “grateful” for Pence’s visit. ” We look forward to continued collaboration to develop essential testing and treatment for our patients and communities,” the tweet continued.

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Write to Madeleine Carlisle at madeleine.carlisle@time.com