Photos and videos of Pence’s tour showed the vice president bare-faced as he met with the staff of the Minnesota clinic and at least one patient.
Everyone else in the footage had a protective face covering on, in accordance with the policy established April 13 for “all patients and visitors to wear a face covering or mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The guidance is based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Trump administration.
Pence was informed of the rules before he visited, the clinic said on Twitter, in a post that was deleted about a half hour later, according to The Guardian.
“Mayo Clinic had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today,” they had written.
Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, of Hawaii, blasted Pence for ignoring the rule.
“When you don’t wear a mask, especially inside the Mayo Clinic, you are not being brave. You are showing that you think the rules don’t apply to you. And you are setting a dangerous example by ignoring experts,” he tweeted.
Pence was at the renowned clinic to learn about a new COVID-19 test that it is developing in partnership with the University of Minnesota.
His office argued that the veep doesn’t need to wear a mask because he gets tested for the coronavirus regularly.
“When the face-covering guidelines were developed, it was with the intention to not only protect yourself, but primarily to protect others from asymptomatic spread,” Pence’s spokesperson told The Guardian.
“Vice President Pence is negative for COVID-19 and is therefore not asymptomatic.”
President Trump has also declined to wear a mask, saying “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it” when his administration rolled out its new guidance earlier this month.
The first lady, Melania Trump, has encouraged all Americans to cover their faces in public.