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Karen Pence says vice president didn't know about Mayo Clinic mask policy until he left

The Hill logo The Hill 4/30/2020 Brett Samuels

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Video by USA Today

Second lady Karen Pence said Thursday that Vice President Pence had been unaware of the Mayo Clinic's policy requiring all visitors to wear a face covering until after he left visiting the facility on Tuesday.

"As our medical experts have told us, wearing a mask prevents you from spreading disease. And knowing he doesn't have COVID-19, he didn't wear one," she said on "Fox & Friends."

"It was actually after he left Mayo Clinic that he found out they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask," the second lady continued. "So someone who's worked on this whole task force for over two months is not someone who would have done anything offend anyone, or hurt anyone, or scare anyone."

The vice president's visit to Mayo Clinic was intended to highlight research being done on treatments for the coronavirus, specifically how the blood of recovering patients can be used. But the trip was largely overshadowed by his decision not to wear a face covering in defiance of the Mayo Clinic policy.

Pence was the only individual spotted without a mask during his visit as he participated in a tour and held a roundtable with physicians, nurses and researchers. Everyone else seen on camera with Pence had masks on, including Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

On Tuesday, the clinic tweeted, then deleted, a message that it informed Pence of its masking policy prior to his arrival in Rochester.

"Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP's office," the clinic said in an emailed statement after deleting the tweet.

The Mayo Clinic issued guidance on April 13 requiring all patients and visitors to wear a face covering or mask in accordance with updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The clinic said it would provide masks for those who did not bring their own.

The vice president defended his decision at the time, saying that CDC guidance on masks is meant to prevent those with the virus from spreading it. Because he is tested regularly and was aware he was negative for the virus, he reasoned the mask was not necessary.

Pence is scheduled to travel to Indiana on Thursday to visit a General Motors facility making ventilators.

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