- 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.
Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying
The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.
Amazon Endorses States Reform Act
Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.
The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.
The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.
The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.
While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.
The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.
Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.
That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill” because “it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”
Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.
“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)
CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron
Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.
A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron
COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.
The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.
One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week.
In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.
Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization.
By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.
Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.
Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates
Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.
Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.
While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.
Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.
Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent
Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
State Senator Proposes Legislation
Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California.
“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”
“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”
Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians.
Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.
“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”
Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15.
Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.
In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.”
In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate.
The Fight to Vaccinate California
This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”
While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail.
“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added.