Vice President Mike Pence ignored a Mayo Clinic policy that requires everyone to wear a face covering during a visit to the Rochester, Minnesota, hospital on Tuesday afternoon.
Photos and video of Pence's visit, which included meeting health care workers and a roundtable on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, showed that the vice president was the only person not wearing a face mask. Shortly after the images began to circulate on social media, the Mayo Clinic said on Twitter that Pence had been told about its mask policy before he arrived.
In addition to clinic staffers, all members of Pence's entourage also wore face masks.
The Mayo Clinic deleted its tweet minutes after it was posted.
Despite the deleted tweet, a spokesperson with the Mayo Clinic told BuzzFeed News the vice president's office was informed about its mask policy. The spokesperson did not say why the tweet was deleted.
Asked by reporters why he did not wear a mask, Pence said he is tested for the coronavirus "on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus."
"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," he said.
Since April 13, the Mayo Clinic has been requiring all patients and visitors at its campuses to wear a mask or face covering in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
"Patients and visitors are asked to bring their own face covering or mask to wear," the clinic stated in a statement announcing the policy. "If a patient or visitor does not have a mask, Mayo Clinic will provide one."
Pence, who chairs the White House coronavirus task force, was touring the facility to learn more about Mayo's research on and treatment of COVID-19. He was accompanied by Dr. Stephen Hahn from the FDA.
In one video, he can be seen greeting multiple people by touching elbows instead of shaking hands.
Video from C-SPAN shows Pence meeting with at least 10 people in one large room, including a clinic employee who has recovered from COVID-19. Pence is the only person not wearing a mask.
In the roundtable discussion later in the day, officials including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Mayo Clinic leaders still wore face coverings, while Pence did not.
The vice president's office did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' inquiries about why Pence was not wearing a mask during his visit.