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Vice President Mike Pence did not wear a face mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on Tuesday, despite a clinic policy that requires all visitors to do so.

The latest: Pence told reporters amid backlash, "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 he is following CDC guidelines that note that masks are helpful for preventing those who have the virus from spreading it.
  • "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 healthcare personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you," he added.

Why it matters: Pence was the only member of his entourage not to wear a mask, according to a White House pool report. The Mayo Clinic tweeted that it had informed the vice president about its mask policy prior to his visit, but later deleted the tweet.

The big picture: The White House announced earlier this month that the CDC would recommend Americans wear cloth masks or face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. President Trump emphasized at the time that the guidance was "voluntary" and said that he would likely not abide by the recommendation.

  • According to pool reports, Pence has not publicly worn a mask once during the pandemic despite traveling across the country.
  • The president hasn't worn one either, but he has not engaged in the same amount of travel as Pence.

Pence's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Go deeper

GOP Rep. Rodney Davis tests positive for coronavirus

Rep. Rodney Davis. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) announced on Wednesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, said he has taken precautions against the virus, such as twice-daily temperature checks. He spoke to Republicans about staying safe after Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) recently tested positive for the virus and spoke out against wearing face masks, Politico notes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

Fauci: Coronavirus task force to examine aerosolized spread


A sneeze. Photo: Maartje van Caspel/Getty Images

The White House coronavirus task force will examine more closely just how much SARS-CoV-2 might be transmitted via aerosols, and not just from droplets, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said Wednesday at an online forum sponsored by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Why it matters: The longer the coronavirus can remain infectious in the air, the more likely it can infect people, particularly indoors — leading to the possible need to alter air filtration and circulation within buildings.