Coronavirus: Mike Pence refuses to wear face mask on medical facility visit
29 April 2020, 08:40 | Updated: 29 April 2020, 11:49
US Vice President Mike Pence has been criticised after being pictured at a medical facility not wearing a face mask.
His actions went directly against the facility's own policy on masks, as well as advice from the US government's body for disease control.
Mr Pence was the only person pictured not wearing a mask during the tour of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
He was pictured meeting staff members, including one who is still recovering from coronavirus, at the virus research facility.
He was also pictured maskless in a lab where tests on the virus are undertaken.
However, Mr Pence insisted that he did not need to wear a mask as he and his staff are tested regularly for the virus and he has come back negative.
On its website, the clinic states: "Part of our protocol for ensuring your safety is to require all patients, visitors and staff to wear a face-covering or mask while at Mayo Clinic to guard against transmission of COVID-19."
In a now-deleted tweet, the clinic said: “Mayo Clinic had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today,”.
It was deleted after about 30 minutes.
Vice president Pence defended his decision not to wear a mask by saying he was regularly tested for the virus.
"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," he 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 healthcare personnel, and look them in the eye and say 'thank you'."
His statement comes after President Donald Trump said he doubted he would wear a mask at any point during the pandemic.
"Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens - I just don't see it," he said.
On Tuesday, the US reached more than one million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, including more than 58,000 deaths.
The total number of Covid-19 infections in the US now stands at 1,002,498, comfortably making it the epicentre of the outbreak.