‘Somebody seriously dropped the ball.’ Why did the Mayo Clinic let Mike Pence visit patients with no mask?

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Why would a hospital, ranked No. 1 in the U.S., break its own policies and put its patients’ and medical staff’s health and even their lives at risk by allowing a visitor to walk around wards with no mask, no gown — and without maintaining the recommended six-feet distance?

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited the Mayo Clinic Tuesday, and, according to a now-deleted tweet and a statement to MarketWatch, was told by hospital officials he should wear a mask. A spokesperson for the clinic said, “Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP’s office.” (Here’s a video of the scene.)

The Service Employees International Union roundly criticized the hospital’s decision to let Pence forgo a mask: “As the union that represents thousands of workers at Mayo, we are deeply disappointed that Mayo failed to enforce their own policy.” (Mayo declined to comment beyond its official statement.)

‘There’s a classic dilemma in health care: Celebrities and wealthy people get special treatment.’

— Art Caplan, director of medical ethics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

The SEIU said that COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, is preventable and treatable, “but only if we ensure working people are informed and protected.” The labor union represents around 2 million frontline health-care workers.

Many medical professionals were aghast. “I would have said, ‘You’re not going in. You should be a good role model,’” said Art Caplan, director of medical ethics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. “You cannot deviate from procedure. It usually leads to bad outcomes.”

“The institution has an obligation first and foremost to make sure that all visitors are following their guidelines for safety for both patients and their staff,” he added. “That’s an absolute must. They have to enforce it, whether it’s the vice president or your 10-year-old child who’s visiting.”

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