Vice President Mike Pence was back home again in Indiana Thursday to visit a General Motors plant in Kokomo.
The auto manufacturer, in partnership with medical device-maker Ventec, is producing 30,000 ventilators to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pence met with company leaders and factory workers. He told GM CEO Mary Barra what he saw was inspiring.
"When President Trump and you spoke about this, it was - he made it very clear that we weren’t just going to have a 'whole of government' approach, we needed a 'whole of America' approach," Pence says.
One GM worker, a 43-year veteran of the company introduced only as George, told Pence he delayed his retirement to help make the ventilators.
“We move roadblocks. Any little roadblock gets in the way, we just move along, we move along, we move along," George says. "And I have never seen anything like it in my life.”
George says he feels like he's fighting in a world war to help produce the medical equipment.
Another worker – introduced as Erin – says she and her fellow employees are on a mission.
“We want these ventilators to get out to the people that could be our parents, could be our children, could be our neighbor," Erin says. "You know, you think about that when you’re in the manufacturing. You want to make sure that you’re putting your all.”
Pence’s visit to the factory came hours after his wife, Karen Pence, defended her husband’s decision to not wear a mask during a Tuesday visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Mrs. Pence told Fox News Channel that he had been unaware of the hospital’s coronavirus policy during the visit and that the vice president has been following the advice of medical experts. Pence, like other senior White House staff, is tested for the virus at least once a week.
“As our medical experts have told us, wearing a mask prevents you from spreading the disease. And knowing that he doesn’t have COVID-19, he didn’t wear one,” Mrs. Pence said, adding that it “was actually after he left Mayo Clinic that he found out that they had a policy of asking everyone to wear a mask.”
“So, you know, someone who’s worked on this whole task force for over two months is not someone who would have done anything to offend anyone or hurt anyone or scare anyone,” she said.
The Mayo Clinic had earlier tweeted — then deleted — that it had informed the vice president of its “masking policy prior to his arrival.”
“Mayo shared the masking policy with the VP’s office,” the health care system later said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as in supermarkets, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed discomfort about mask-wearing, saying he did not intend to wear one when the CDC’s recommendations were unveiled. But he said Thursday that he would be open to wearing one when he travels to Arizona next week.
“I’m going to have to look at the climate,” he said, telling reporters, “I’d have no problem wearing a mask.”
Still he queried reporters about whether it would be appropriate to wear one while delivering a speech.
“Should I speak in the mask?” he asked. “You’re going to have to tell me if that’s politically correct. I don’t know. If it is, I’ll speak in a mask.” Trump’s has openly flouted political norms and taken pride in his political incorrectness.
Footage of Pence’s tour of the Mayo Clinic earlier this week showed him bare-faced as he met with an employee who had recovered from the virus, even though everyone else in the room appeared to be wearing one. He also participated in a roundtable discussion in which every participant, from Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn to the state’s governor, wore a mask except for him.
Pence explained his decision that day by stressing that he has been frequently tested for the virus.
“As vice president of the United States I’m tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus,” Pence said. “And since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health care personnel, and look them in the eye and say ‘thank you.’”
But even with a mask, Pence would have been able to look health care workers in the eye because one only covers the nose and mouth.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat who wore a mask while he accompanied Pence on his visit to the Mayo Clinic, said he appreciated seeing that Pence was wearing a mask on his trip to Indiana on Thursday.
“The simple gesture of wearing that mask in public goes an awful long ways,” Walz said.
People who enter the White House complex have their temperature taken, and those who will be in close proximity to the president and the vice president are given rapid COVID-19 tests to ensure they’re not infectious.
Senior staff also are given tests on a rolling basis so that infections are quickly detected.
For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.