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A masked Pence beta-tests presidential travel for America’s reopening

On the eve of Pence’s visit here, Trump unveiled his own plans to travel to Arizona next week for a trip that will closely resemble those the vice president has been beta-testing since the beginning of April. To plan for the president’s first trip outside the White House as he tries to jump-start a devastated economy, his aides have been working closely with Pence’s team to discuss logistical hurdles they faced during recent trips to Virginia, Wisconsin and Minnesota and develop different protocols in response.

The changes Pence’s team has made — sending advance staffers to the vice president’s destinations on military aircraft instead of commercial flights, limiting their movements once they are on the ground and testing those who will be in close proximity to Pence — underscore the challenges Trump’s team will face as they coordinate trips with a much larger footprint.

“There are some protocols they will probably keep and some they may get rid of,” Pence chief of staff Marc Short told reporters aboard Air Force Two, noting that the vice president’s team had debriefed officials in the White House Military Office following each trip “so they can prepare for the president’s travel.”

But even with meticulous planning, one of Pence’s recent trips left him embroiled in political controversy — a sign that not all the challenges Trump is likely to encounter will be logistical in nature.

Earlier this week, the vice president drew criticism from health experts and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for declining to wear a face mask while visiting a Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where others were required to do so. Pence’s team had been informed of the rule ahead of time and the vice president later said he wanted to “look [workers] in the eye and say thank you.”

On Thursday, Pence was wearing a face mask as he visited his home state to tour a General Motors auto plant that has been converted into a ventilator production site. Top officials joining him, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, also wore masks alongside the vice president.

Pence joined workers on the third floor of the facility to discuss the 12-step assembly process for making ventilators. As he spoke with one employee, he stood in front of a display featuring ventilator parts made at this plant and a sign that read: “One Team. One Mission. One month.”

“You’re making a difference for America,” Pence told the employee, giving the rest of the floor a thumbs up. He also met an 18-year-old employee whose first job has been working at this facility.

GM worked with the UAW union to bring employees back to this auto plant in mid-April to produce critical care ventilators for hospitals around the nation. The facility was set up to accommodate production in 17 days and has manufactured hundreds of ventilators, including ones sent to hospitals in Gary, Ind., that were struggling with their supply.

Pence planned to hold a roundtable with workers there later in the afternoon.

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