Last week, Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tested positive for COVID-19, but that didn’t stop him from reportedly asking a group of food industry leaders to remove their masks before a meeting.
The Intercept posted a video of the meeting, showing five leaders from food giants Kroger, Tyson Foods, and the American Farm Bureau Federation sitting at a table. Though the audio isn’t clear, a staffer comes out to the table and speaks with the CEOs, who then remove their masks before Pence emerges.
The move came just hours after Katie Miller tested positive for the novel coronavirus, delaying Pence’s flight to the meeting at the headquarters of the Hy-Vee supermarket chain.
While the vice president maintained social distancing during the meeting, the Intercept reports that it highlights the ways in which some members of the Trump administration choose not to follow federal guidelines related to COVID-19.
While those who attended the event were tested for elevated temperatures, it appears that many people who attended the meeting didn’t wear facemasks.
The decision on whether or not to wear a mask has become a political focal point, with both Pence and Trump facing repeated criticism for failing to wear masks despite the Trump administration’s own guidelines to wear protective equipment to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Trump recently met with elderly World War II veterans but chose not to wear a mask during the event. The White House defended the decision, saying that the war heroes chose to meet the president knowing that he may choose not to wear a mask.
Pence faced criticism after attending an event at a Mayo Clinic while failing to wear a mask. His wife initially said that he wasn’t aware of any mask requirements, something the clinic denied. Pence later admitted that he should have worn the face covering.
Both Pence and Trump have argued that they’re tested regularly, so wearing a mask over their face isn’t necessary. However, a recent report suggests that the president also views wearing a mask to be potentially harmful to his image and could reduce his chances of being re-elected.
Experts note that while testing is an important element of slowing the spread of the disease, it is possible to get a false negative, which means an individual could be sick and not test positive.
“An infected person could get a so-called ‘false negative’ test result if the swab missed the virus, for example,” Harvard Medical School said.