Vice President Mike Pence appeared to violate Mayo Clinic policy when he toured the medical clinic last week without wearing a face mask.

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that he should have worn a face mask when he visited the Mayo Clinic last week.

“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic,” Pence said during a Fox News virtual town hall with President Donald Trump at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Pence’s acknowledgement comes after he was roundly criticized for failing to don one of the protective coverings – in an apparent violation of clinic policy – when he visited the Minnesota medical center last week to meet with staff and patients.

Mayo Clinic policy requires "all patients, visitors and staff to wear a face covering or mask while at Mayo Clinic to guard against transmission of COVID-19." A post on the Mayo Clinic’s Twitter account indicated that Pence had been informed of the masking policy prior to his arrival. That tweet has since been deleted.

In a later tweet, the Mayo Clinic said it was "grateful" for Pence's visit and looked "forward to continued collaboration to develop essential testing and treatment for our patients and communities."

Asked Sunday if his decision to go without a mask was sending mixed signals, Pence stressed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been clear that the purpose of wearing a mask is to keep from spreading the coronavirus.

“Since the president and I are in the unique positions that we are in, we are tested often,” Pence said, adding that he didn’t think a mask had been necessary.

Pence slammed: David Letterman criticizes Mike Pence for 'taunting' COVID-19 patients by not wearing mask

The White House has said that both Trump and Pence have tested negative for coronavirus.

Still, some medical experts and other critics accused Pence of poor judgment and of ignoring guidelines meant to protect the Mayo Clinic’s patients and staff.

Pence did wear a mask two days later when he toured a General Motors plant in Indiana that had been converted to produce ventilators.

Second lady weighs in: Karen Pence says Mike Pence did not find out about Mayo Clinic mask policy until after visit

SEARCHABLE MAP: Coronavirus death rates and cases for every US county: https://interactives.courier-journal.com/projects/cv19/map/ 

All coronavirus coverage is being provided free to our readers. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing. Help keep local businesses afloat at supportlocal.usatoday.com.