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Slate reports that just before Vice President Mike Pence joined five food industry executives onstage for a roundtable discussion in West Des Moines, Iowa, someone came in to ask each of them to remove their masks.

  • This took place only a few hours after Katie Miller, Pence’s press secretary, tested positive for COVID-19, the Des Moines Register reports.
  • This is not the first time Pence’s decision to forgo wearing a mask has drawn attention. Slate reports that during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Pence did not wear a face mask and claimed it was because he was tested regularly. He later said, “I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn the mask at the Mayo Clinic.”
  • The Associated Press has claimed that “The decision to wear a mask in public is becoming a political statement.” It is “increasingly a visual shorthand for the debate pitting those willing to follow health officials’ guidance and cover their faces against those who feel it violates their freedom or buys into a threat they think is overblown.”

The Des Moines Register notes,

The administration has held several carefully orchestrated events in recent days to promote [a sense of normalcy], including a series of Oval Office meetings between Trump and governors, nurses and business leaders. But often, such outings end up underscoring the virus' grip on American life.

Slate describes Pence’s food industry roundtable as one such event “intended to encourage economies to start returning to normal.” However,

…throughout the day there were clear signs that everything continued to be far from normal. Before the event in which the executives were asked to remove their masks, staffers wearing gloves and masks took the temperature of people who entered the building. And even though members of the audience did appear to be staying apart from each other, video showed that few were actually wearing masks.