WASHINGTON – Joe Biden said Monday that he wears a face mask around Secret Service agents, drawing a distinction between himself and President Donald Trump as the issue of using face coverings in public amid a pandemic increasingly becomes a political flash point.
The comment came as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was addressing a virtual town hall on better protecting meatpacking plant employees and others in essential industries exempt from stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus outbreak.
“They deserve the personal protective equipment, including gloves like I have on, a mask that I wear whenever I’m around anyone from the Secret Service,” Biden said during an event organized by the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Vice President Mike Pence said during a televised town hall Sunday night that he should have worn a mask while visiting the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota last week.
Pence made the trip without wearing one and drew public rebuke for violating hospital policies. He originally told reporters he didn't need one because he is tested regularly for the coronavirus and wanted to be able to look people in the eye. But Pence reversed course during a Fox News Channel town hall, saying, "I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic.”
Trump has said he chooses not to wear a mask during public interactions like briefings at the White House. That's likely to be an issue Tuesday, when the president travels to Arizona to tour a factory manufacturing protective equipment.
Demonstrators decrying stay-at-home orders, some with guns, have taken to the streets in several states recently — flouting rules on wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
The presidential campaign, like so much of American life, has ground to a halt during the outbreak. Still, Biden has long said he wears a mask while in public.
Over Easter weekend, online photos showed Biden with a mask around his neck as he and his wife, who wore a scarf that could be used to cover her face, posed for pictures outside. During online events, Biden has repeatedly mentioned that he frequently sees his grandchildren, who live close to his Delaware home, but that he maintains social distancing, staying on the porch while they are in the yard —even while serving ice cream.