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Coronavirus Updates: Gov. Walz Frustrated Face Mask Issue Overshadowed VP Pence's 'Incredibly Productive' Visit

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- During a Thursday briefing where he extended the state's stay-at-home-order, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he was frustrated at how Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Mayo Clinic was overshadowed by a face mask issue.

Pence returned to Minnesota Tuesday to tour Rochester's Mayo Clinic and learn about a new coronavirus testing partnership.

While touring the Mayo Clinic, Pence was observed speaking with healthcare workers and plasma donors, along with touring a coronavirus testing lab to get an explanation of the lab's capabilities. However, Pence was notably not wearing a face mask.

Related: Gov. Walz Extends Stay-At-Home Order By 2 Weeks; Allows Curbside Pickup For Retail Stores

The Mayo Clinic tweeted that he had been informed of the mask policy prior to his visit, but then deleted the tweet shortly after. When WCCO reached out to the Mayo Clinic for further comment, they responded: "Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP's office."

At the daily briefing, Walz said it was unfortunate that Pence not wearing a face mask overshadowed what the trip accomplished.

"I saw today Vice President Pence was at a facility and he was wearing a mask, so I appreciate that," he said.

He emphasized that the vice president's visit was "incredibly productive" and the partnership was "incredibly focused."

"The groundbreaking work that we were able to witness was hugely inspiring," Walz said.

Walz did add that wearing masks in public during the pandemic is a good gesture to others and it may prevent those who are infected from spreading the virus.

"I do think there's a psychological piece behind it to show that we're all in this together and we really are getting it," Walz said.

WCCO-TV's Esme Murphy asked Pence why he wasn't wearing a mask during the visit.

"You know in my role as vice president, I'm tested for the coronavirus every day and literally everyone around me is tested on a regular basis," Pence said.

Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, reportedly defended his decision to not wear a mask during a recent visit to the Mayo Clinic. She said he was unaware of the hospital's coronavirus policy until after he left.

During the visit, Pence was briefed on the state's partnership with Mayo and the University of Minnesota to expand testing for COVID-19. The partnership is expected to boost the state's capacity to 20,000 tests a day.

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