Pence deletes tweet showing Trump campaign staff not wearing face masks or social distancing

Mike Pence
Photo credit: CNN

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday evening tweeted, and then deleted, a photo showing a large group of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign staff not wearing face masks or social distancing, two recommendations of the coronavirus task force that Pence leads.

“Stopped by to see the great men and women of the Trump-Pence Team today!” the tweet read. “Thank you for all of the hard work, keep it up!”

The message was accompanied by a photo of Pence and the campaign staff giving a thumbs up sign.

The photo appeared to be from the campaign’s Arlington, Virginia, office — Pence was not scheduled to travel on Wednesday and had no public events on his schedule. In the photo, no one, including the vice president appeared to be wearing a face mask and the group far exceeded the 10-person gathering limit outlined in Virginia’s phase one coronavirus guidelines.

CNN has reached out to the White House and the Trump campaign for comment.

Health experts have long warned that a lack of social distancing could result in a second peak in the virus. Nationally more than 1.9 million people have been infected by the virus and more than 112,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Many states have loosened restrictions that were put in place starting in March. But with no vaccine and more people congregating in public places and national protests, experts warn that the high rates of cases seen in the spring may return.

Last month, the pandemic drew closer to the White House when two staffers tested positive for the virus. Trump confirmed at the time that one of those staffers was Pence’s then-press secretary, Katie Miller.

“She’s a wonderful young woman, Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time and then all of a sudden today she tested positive,” Trump said during a meeting with Republican members of Congress at the White House.

Pence drew considerable scrutiny in April when he toured the Mayo Clinic medical facility without a mask — a move he later conceded was wrong.

The clinic had briefed Pence’s team in the days leading up to his trip about their policy requiring face masks, a person involved in planning the visit previously told CNN.

When Pence and the team, including reporters, arrived at the clinic, personnel from the facility had masks available for the group, including Pence. During the tour, the rest of the entourage wore masks except Pence. The person said when the clinic told the White House about the policy, it wasn’t clear whether the vice president would wear a mask.

Citing how often he’s been tested for the virus, Pence later said during a Fox News town hall, “I didn’t think it was necessary but I should have worn the mask at the Mayo Clinic.”

This story has been updated with additional reporting and context.