- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence defended his decision Tuesday not to wear a mask while visiting the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, saying he wanted to look health-care workers “in the eye” to thank them for their heroic work.

“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,” Mr. Pence told reporters, saying he is following CDC guidelines indicating that a mask is good for preventing the spread of the virus by those who have it.

Mr. Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force, added, “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.”

The Mayo Clinic’s policy is for people to wear masks during the pandemic. The medical center said in a since-deleted tweet that it had advised Mr. Pence’s office of its rule before his visit.

Some Democrats and others criticized the vice president’s decision.

“The mask is not to protect you, it’s to protect the patients at the Mayo Clinic,” Rep. Ted Lieu of California tweeted at Mr. Pence. “You had no right to violate hospital policy and put others at risk.”

Kyle Morse, spokesman for the liberal super PAC American Bridge, said, “Pence, like Donald Trump, thinks the rules don’t apply to him, and he’s proven time and again that he can’t be trusted to take this crisis seriously.”

But some, such as conservative talk-show host Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo, applauded his move.

“I LOVE that @VP Mike Pence showed the courage to not wear a mask while at the Mayo Clinic,” Mr. Pagliarulo tweeted. “He made the decision the risk was low enough for himself that he would meet patients, doctors and staff unprotected. He’s a free, liberated American.”

President Trump also has rejected wearing a mask.

And Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, praised Mr. Pence’s efforts during the crisis.

“I can tell you that the vice president spends countless hours on the phone with governors every week,” Mr. Walz said. “He’s there to pick up the phone when we call. You coming back to Minnesota, coming out to listen about what we’re doing and to see what I think is the path forward… I am very grateful.”

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