Why didn't Mike Pence wear a mask at the Mayo Clinic?

A big deal? Not really.

But big enough that the Mayo Clinic itself felt obliged to call attention to it.

Maybe Pence didn’t want any dorky face gear interfering with the extremely cool “Mike Pence look” that he’s spent years putting together.


That wasn’t the first time Pence, the leader of the White House’s coronavirus task force and thus the de facto head of the federal response, had shirked proper pandemic hygiene in America 2020:

I’ve worn a mask out a few times and understand his aversion to it. Some cloth masks aren’t easy to breathe in. And it’s hard not to feel ridiculous, as though you’re overreacting, when you’re wearing one and you run across someone who isn’t. But the clinic’s “masks for all” policy should have solved that peer pressure problem for Pence. S.O.P. is to wear one. He stood out because he refused.

Oh well. It’s not like a clinic is a place where there’s likely to be virus in the air, I guess.

He was asked afterward why he didn’t wear a mask and said it’s because he’s tested frequently:

Right, but the test only tells you if you’re infected *at the moment you’re tested.* It’s possible he tested negative two days ago and has been infected since. And in any case, it’s besides the point. Whether the country’s leaders follow the norms they’ve been advocating may matter at the margins:

[Kimberly] Love said she supporters the president’s coronavirus response because he tells it like it is and “really gives someone [in the press] the time of day if you know what I mean.” And it seems some of the president’s comments at the briefings have made an impact on how Love is approaching the coronavirus, telling ABC News she “refuses to wear a mask.”

“If he’s not going to wear one I’m not going to wear one,” she said.

The sooner high officials like Pence start wearing these things in public, the sooner it’ll seem normal to the general public to do so. That’s a special problem for this White House since Trump will never wear one, as he’s far too vain to make even a small sacrifice in the name of leading by example.

One more point. Remember that masks are recommended not because they block the virus from getting in (although ideally they provide some protection) but because they block the virus from getting out. We want masks to be commonplace in the population because inevitably some people wearing them will be asymptomatic carriers. Their masks will catch some of the viral particles they expel when they speak or cough, limiting transmission to those around them. As the saying goes, “my mask protects you, your mask protects me.” It’d be one thing if Pence had exposed only himself to contracting the virus while at the Mayo Clinic by declining to wear a mask — which he did. The greater risk is that he exposed others to infection by doing nothing to contain his own respiratory emissions.

And no, it’s no excuse that he was expected to speak while on the premises. People around him who were wearing masks could be heard just fine when they spoke:

Maybe the minor public shaming he’ll receive for this episode will make him rethink his policy at the next photo op. At least he’s given up on shaking hands. I’ll leave you with this: