Vice President Mike Pence praised the innovation and leadership of Mayo Clinic during a Tuesday visit to the distinguished institution’s headquarters in Rochester, Minnesota.
“It’s inspiring for me to be back in Minnesota,” the vice president said during a roundtable discussion. “I had to be here at Mayo today because when the president and I heard about the moonshot partnership we knew that this was the right state and the right time to come and celebrate what the president likes to call a whole of America approach.”
Pence was referring to Gov. Tim Walz’s recent announcement that the state will now be able to perform up to 20,000 molecular coronavirus tests per day under a partnership with Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota.
As of Tuesday, the state had completed 63,829 COVID-19 tests but has yet to see a dramatic increase in the number of tests performed, which is apparently due to the fact that the state cannot obtain the swabs and vials it needs for testing from the federal government.
“It’s remarkable to think that roughly two months ago we had done roughly 8,500 coronavirus tests in America. But because of the innovation that President Trump secured by bringing commercial labs together, including the great Mayo Clinic commercial lab not far from here, I was told on Air Force Two this morning we’ve conducted 5.6 million coronavirus tests,” Pence said Tuesday.
Prior to the roundtable discussion, Vice President Pence toured Mayo’s research and treatment facilities with Gov. Walz, Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN-01), FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, and Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, president and CEO of Mayo Clinic.
“We’re truly grateful that we have this opportunity to serve our nation,” said Farrugia.
Pence thanked Mayo Clinic for serving as the lead institution for a blood plasma Expanded Access Program. The goal of the program is to collect plasma from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and provide it to patients who are still sick. The convalescent plasma given to COVID-19 patients contains antibodies that could help fight the disease.
“I was actually told at this point you’ve infused more than 3,000 people with blood plasma from people that have recovered from the coronavirus,” Pence said. “We are encouraged with the news that though we don’t know for sure about the impact of this treatment, we are told some doctors tell us that they’re actually seeing people on respirators getting better more quickly when they’re injected with the blood plasma of people who’ve recovered from the coronavirus.”
Gov. Walz said the vice president has spent “countless hours on the phone with governors every week.”
“He’s there to pick up the phone when we call. I want to thank you and the president,” he said. “You walk through those labs, and the vice president saw it, and you can’t help but be inspired.”
Pence was criticized by many in the national media because he was the only person not wearing a mask during the tour. Mayo announced a policy earlier this month that requires all patients and visitors to wear a face mask and said in a now-deleted tweet that it informed the vice president “of the masking policy prior to his arrival today.”
“America needs real leadership right now, and it’s clear that Donald Trump, Vice President Pence and the administration are not prepared to provide that to the American people,” Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement. “The crisis is worse because of Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s failed leadership.”
Preya Samsundar, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, told The Minnesota Sun that the vice president’s visit “reinforces the Trump administration’s commitment to fighting the coronavirus across the country.”
“As they continue to show bold and decisive leadership, Minnesotans know that President Trump and Vice President Pence will continue to fight for them and those on the front lines by putting the American people first,” she said.
“Thank you Gov. Tim Walz for aligning resources to improve testing and using new research to protect the people of Minnesota,” Pence said on Twitter after his visit. “We will continue to work every day with governors across this country to put the coronavirus in the past.”
Thank you @GovTimWalz for aligning resources to improve testing and using new research to protect the people of Minnesota. We will continue to work every day with Governors across this Country to put the Coronavirus in the past. pic.twitter.com/QfSPpWAElw
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) April 28, 2020
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