Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence defended her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, amid criticism that he did not wear a mask during a visit this week to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Mrs. Pence said her husband did not mean to offend anyone and that he was unaware about the policy regarding the wearing of masks while out in public.
“As our medical experts have told us, wearing a mask prevents you from spreading the disease. And knowing that he doesn’t have COVID-19, he didn’t wear one,” Mrs. Pence said, noting that it “was actually after he left Mayo Clinic that he found out that they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask.”
“So, you know, someone who’s worked on this whole task force for over two months is not someone who would have done anything to offend anyone or hurt anyone or scare anyone,” she said.
The vice president himself defended his decision not to wear a mask in a statement the day after his visit sparked controversy.
“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 said. “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 health care personnel, and look them in the eye and say ‘thank you.’”
The Mayo Clinic tweeted (and later deleted) a message stating that the vice president was made aware of “masking policy prior to his arrival.”
“Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP’s office,” the Mayo Clinic said in its later response.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s official website recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
“It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus,” the agency’s recommendation continues. “CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”
Vice President Pence leads the White House’s national coronavirus taskforce and it is unlikely he would be unaware of official policy regarding mask-wearing.
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.