Vice President Pence visits Mayo Clinic in Rochester, criticized for not wearing a mask |

Vice President Pence visits Mayo Clinic in Rochester, criticized for not wearing a mask

Miguel Octavio
Created: April 28, 2020 10:35 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Vice President Mike Pence arrived via Air Force Two at the Rochester International Airport on Tuesday welcomed by Gov. Tim Walz and Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

Pence then got the chance to see Mayo Clinic's testing facilities himself. A roundtable with medical experts followed his tour.

Pence serves as head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force but faced criticism over his choice not to wear a mask during his visit despite Mayo Clinic's  policy.

The vice president responded saying he gets tested for COVID-19 often. 

"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," Pence said.

Doctors emphasized the importance of data to the vice president.

"We need to follow the science and understand, really understand this virus," said Dr. Amy Williams, a member of Mayo Clinic's Board of Trustees and chair of the Department of Medicine. 

Williams stressed the need for continued funding in COVID-19 research, testing and PPE supply to the vice president. 

Dozens of onlookers and healthcare workers stood outside the facility. A motorcade allowed the vice president to show his appreciation for healthcare workers.

"What an honor [for Vice President Pence] to be able to tour Mayo Clinic," Hagedorn said. "It's a very innovative place for research and medicine."

Walz recently announced the state may test up to 20,000 Minnesotans per day thanks in part to Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota. 

Mayo Clinic leads the national trials for the convalescent plasma therapy treatment which could help COVID-19 patients recover faster using antibodies from recovered patients. Experts say testing is key to safely reopen the economy.

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