- Vice President Mike Pence is facing backlash for not wearing a face mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic Tuesday.
- In a now-deleted tweet and a statement from a clinic spokesperson, the facility said it had previously advised him of its policy requiring that masks be worn to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
- Pence later explained his decision, saying that he and those often around him are tested on a regular basis and since he doesn’t have the virus, he thought it would be a good opportunity to meet healthcare workers, “look them in the eye and say ‘thank you.”
- Critics argue that he could still contract and spread the virus in between tests and say both Trump and Pence set poor examples for Americans by not wearing masks themselves.
Vice President Mike Pence toured the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota on Tuesday without wearing a face mask, violating the clinic’s policy aimed at helping slow the spread of COVID-19.
During his visit, Pence participated in a discussion with top doctors at the facility, along with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, a Republican whose district includes the city of Rochester. Pence was also accompanied by federal Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.
But after images and clips of the visit were released, they showed that Pence appeared to be the only person present without a mask. In once highly viewed clip, the vice president is closely surrounded by at least 10 other people, all of whom are wearing face coverings.
PENCE flouts Mayo Clinic policy that everyone on campus wear a mask, even as he meets with staff and a patient. pic.twitter.com/kfo64KQDhU— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) April 28, 2020
Mayo Clinic Alerted Pence’s Team of its Policy
According to the Mayo clinic’s website, as of April 13, “Patients and visitors are asked to bring their own face covering or mask to wear. If a patient or visitor does not have a mask, Mayo Clinic will provide one.”
After being met with questions about Pence’s decision, the Mayo Clinic even sent out a tweet from its official Twitter account saying that it had informed him of its policy before his visit. However, that tweet was deleted about a half-hour after it was posted, according to CNBC.
In response to questions about why Pence wasn’t wearing a mask, the Mayo Clinic tweeted this earlier. Then they deleted it. So that’s normal. pic.twitter.com/7peNxMxx7t— shauna (@goldengateblond) April 28, 2020
A Mayo spokesperson also reiterated the same message as that now-deleted tweet to CNBC, explaining that the clinic had “shared the masking policy with the VP’s office.” The spokesperson, however, did not respond to a question about why the tweet was removed.
Pence Explains His Decision
Aside from violating the clinic’s rules, the vice president’s decision to not wear a mask also goes against the government’s own recommendation, which advises Americans to wear cloth face coverings in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
After touring and speaking with experts, Pence spoke at a news conference at the facility where he was asked why he did not wear a mask.
“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.
“When the [federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] issued guidelines about wearing a mask it was their recognition that people that may have the coronavirus could prevent the possibility of conveying the virus to someone else by wearing a mask,” he continued.
“And since I don’t have the coronavirus I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be here to be able to speak to these researchers– this incredible health-care personnel–and look them in the eye and say ‘thank you.’”
Another reporter later asked how frequently he is tested and whether he thought wearing a mask might send “a positive signal to the American public.”
Pence did not directly answer the question about what signal wearing a mask could send, but he reiterated that he was tested “on a regular basis.”
“And I agree with the CDC guidance that wearing a mask doesn’t necessarily protect you from the coronavirus, but wearing a mask might prevent you from inadvertently conveying the virus to a loved one, family member or friend,” the vice president continued.
“So we think they’re very useful in that respect, and we respect that altogether.”
Last week, White House aides told The New York Times why Pence doesn’t feel like he has to wear a mask in public, giving the same explanation Pence issued Tuesday. But the newspaper noted that Pence could contract the virus between his tests, and argued that tests are not always accurate.
Many were frustrated with Pence after the visit, fearful of both the risk of spreading the virus and the message not wearing a mask sends.
Author Stephen King said it, “underlines a largely unspoken problem: the idea that REAL MEN DON’T WEAR FACEMASKS. Going barefaced isn’t macho; it’s stupid.”
CNN’s Don Lemon criticized Pence on air Tuesday night, saying “What about the fact that it is their policy?”
“What about the fact that they offered one upon your arrival? What about the fact it’s possible for a coronavirus test to be inaccurate? And it’s possible for you to contract and spread the virus after you have tested negative.”
He specifically hit on Pence’s remark about looking hospital workers in the eye to thank them. “Come on, You see this mask, right?” he said while placing one over his own face.
“Can you see my eyes?” he asked. “It’s not an eye mask we’re talking about. This is ridiculous.”
Trump Shares Stance on Mask
Pence and President Donald Trump appear to both be on the same page about wearing masks. When Trump announced his administration’s guidance for face coverings on April 3, he admitted that he wouldn’t be wearing one.
“I just don’t want to wear one myself, it’s a recommendation,” Trump said at the time. “Somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know, I don’t see it for myself.”
REPORTER: Why are you opposed to wearing a mask?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 3, 2020
TRUMP: “I just don’t want to wear one myself … I’m feeling good. I just don’t want to be doing– somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk. The great Resolute Desk … I don’t see it for myself.” pic.twitter.com/7dWmQQY3Aw
Trump and Pence’s position on masks for themselves stands in contrast with what local leaders and world leaders are doing. Looking globally, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, French President Emmanuel Macron, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and others have been photographed wearing masks in public.
Couple Slammed Over Slavery-Themed Pre-Wedding Photoshoot
Many have expressed outrage at the duo for trying to romanticize slavery while others were left completely dumbfounded by the entire ordeal.
Photoshoot Goes Viral
A couple has come under fire after sharing images on Instagram from their slavery-themed pre-wedding photoshoot.
The photos show a Black man in shackles looking deeply into his white fiancé’s eyes before she works to releases him.
“1842. Days passed and everything changed, our love got stronger and stronger, he was no longer a slave, he was part of the family,” the post’s caption reads.
To indicate his transition from “slave” to family, a fourth image shows him wearing a long coat and top hat with well-shined shoes, as opposed to the white shirt, trousers, and straw hat he wore in the previous images.
Social Media Users React
It’s not immediately clear who these people are since the social media handle is redacted in the images circulating online.
Still, many have expressed outrage at the duo for trying to romanticize slavery while others were left just completely dumbfounded by this entire ordeal. Some also directed criticism at the photographer who agreed to the shoot, along with the hundreds of Instagram users who liked the original posts.
To see people romanticize this shit is infuriating – these people are too much. There is no such thing as slave consent and the sexual abuse of male slaves was real.— Nurse Elise 🌒 (@EliseRootedMind) July 21, 2021
There were three people there counting the photographer and not one thought should we? And over 1400 people hit the like button? And it’s part 2 like there’s more? I so want to be at the wedding when minister asks if anybody objects.— Randi Pro Democracy (@RandiKinman) July 21, 2021
See what others are saying: (The Daily Dot) (Black Enterprise) (BET)
Couple Whose Gender Reveal Sparked CA Wildfire Hit With 30 Charges, Including Involuntary Manslaughter
The fire, which caused massive damage and took months to extinguish, also killed the head of an elite firefighting team.
Gender Reveal Sparks Deadly Wildfire
A couple whose gender reveal party sparked the El Dorado wildfire in Southern California earlier this year has pleaded not guilty after they were hit with 30 charges, authorities said Tuesday.
Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez triggered the fire in Yucaipa on Sept. 5 with a smoke bomb that exploded in especially dry and hot conditions.
By the time the fire was extinguished in November, it had burned over 22,000 acres of land, injured more than a dozen people, forced hundreds of evacuations, and destroyed at least 10 structures.
The blaze also took the life of 39-year-old Charlie Morton, the leader of an elite firefighting team who worked as a firefighter for 18 years.
“He’s fighting a fire that was started because of a smoke bomb. That’s the only reason he’s there,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said at a news conference.
Charges Include Involuntary Manslaughter
Authorities have charged the couple responsible for the wildfire with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, and 22 misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to the property of another.
The charges were filed after a grand jury heard 34 witness interviews over four days. A total of 434 exhibits were ultimately presented to the grand jury, leading to the indictment that was unsealed Tuesday.
After entering their not guilty pleas, the duo was released on their own recognizance until their next scheduled court date. CBS Los Angeles reported that they could face up to 20 years each if convicted as charged.
“You’re obviously dealing with lost lives, you’re dealing with injured lives, and you’re dealing with people’s residences that were burned and their land that was burned. That encompasses a lot of, not only emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically,” Anderson explained at the press conference.
He also stressed that part of the reason the investigation and ultimate prosecution took so long was because authorities wanted to make sure justice was fully served.
“Given the scope and the impact of the El Dorado Fire on the land and lives of so many, particularly Charles Morton and his family, it was imperative that every investigation be completed within both federal and state agencies to provide a full, fair presentation to the members of our community,” he said.
Los Angeles County Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate Amid Rising Cases
The renewed restrictions for the nation’s largest county come as coronavirus infections have been spiking across America, with new cases doubling in the last two weeks.
L.A. County Masks Up, Again
Starting Saturday, Los Angeles County will require people to wear face masks indoors again regardless of vaccination status as the nation’s most populous county grapples with a surge of COVID-19 cases.
In a press conference Thursday, L.A. County health officials pointed to low vaccination rates, a steady climb in new infections, and the rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant as driving factors behind the decision.
“We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something will be too late given what we’re seeing now,” county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said. “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.”
Without providing full details, Davis said there would be some exceptions to the restrictions, including people being allowed to take off their masks while eating and drinking at restaurants.
The move comes as community transmission in the county has skyrocketed since June 15, when California reopened its economy and ended capacity limits, along with social distancing guidelines.
For the week-long period ending on that date, L.A. County had averaged 173 new coronavirus cases a day. Exactly one month later, those numbers have increased by nearly 580%, with the county reporting an average of 1,176 infections a day for the seven-day period ending July 15.
On Thursday, officials logged over 1,537 more cases — the highest figure since early March. Around 70% of COVID samples in the county from June 27 to July 3 were identified as delta variants.
Notably, the vast majority of those impacted have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus. According to reports, between Dec. 7 and June 7, unvaccinated people made up 99.6% of L.A. County’s COVID cases, 98.7% of hospitalizations, and 99.8% of deaths.
Only five million of the more than 10 million residents in the county have been inoculated against the virus.
Cases Surge Across U.S.
L.A. County is not the only locality that has seen a spike in COVID cases, though it is one of the few that has taken firm action.
New cases largely driven by the delta variant, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says now accounts for nearly 60% of all infections in the U.S., have more than doubled in the last two weeks, according to The New York Times tracker.
The 14-day average has risen dramatically from 12,799 on July 1 to 28,315 on July 15.
According to The Times, 49 states have seen at least a 15% increase over the past 14 days, and 19 of those states are reporting double or more the number of new infections. Full outbreaks, largely concentrated in the South, have emerged in a number of states with low vaccination rates.
In the last two weeks, Arkansas, which is currently reporting the highest per capita COVID cases in America, has seen increases of 120% for new cases and 77% for hospitalizations. Florida and Tennesee have seen the most significant 14-day spikes in terms of population percentage, reporting surges of 232% and 373% respectively.
Some states and counties have begun to make additional safety recommendations. Officials in Mississippi, where cases have risen over 70% since July 1, have urged both vaccinated and unvaccinated senior residents to avoid large indoor gatherings.
Health officials in California’s Sacramento and Yolo counties also issued voluntary warnings this week for all residents to wear masks while indoors.
However, it remains to be seen whether more localities will reimpose mandatory requirements or restrictions as cases continue to swell and the delta variant proliferates.
Rising cases in the U.S. and abroad also pose a more long-term threat to global efforts to fight the pandemic. On Thursday, the World Health Organization warned that the influx of new cases in many parts of the world will enhance the likelihood of more severe variants emerging that will be difficult to control with vaccinations.
The WHO also urged wealthier countries like the U.S. — where just over 50% of people are vaccinated despite the existence of supplies for all those eligible — to send more jabs overseas.