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Michigan Gov. Whitmer draws fire for out-of-state trip before she was vaccinated

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wasn't vaccinated when she visited her father in Florida last month. Since then, she has stressed the dangers of traveling between the two states. (Bridge file photo)

June 7: Michigan Republicans seek campaign finance probe of Whitmer trip to Florida
June 2: GOP to governor: Tell us when you leave Michigan. Whitmer: Stop wasting time.

May 27: Whitmer campaign, not shadow nonprofit, now paying for Florida flight
May 14: Records: Shadow nonprofit paid for Whitmer’s Florida flight amid controversy

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer traveled out of state before she was vaccinated for the coronavirus to visit her father, her staff has confirmed.

MIRS News reported on Monday that Whitmer traveled to Florida last month, bringing fresh accusations of hypocrisy from Republicans as the Democratic governor presides over a state with the highest COVID-19 rates in the nation.

In a statement, Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy said she left Michigan three times in the past six months, including a trip to “assist her elderly father who is battling a chronic illness.”

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The other two trips had already been publicly disclosed, including attending President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January and visiting Michigan National Guard troops in Washington D.C. last month.

"The governor did not go on spring break, and she has not left the state in over a month," Leddy said. “All trips were very brief, two full days or less, closely followed public health guidelines, and were made when Michigan's daily positivity rate was in the low single digits.”

Leddy did not disclose additional details about Whitmer’s travels, but MIRS reported the governor traveled to Florida about “about one month ago.”  

Whitmer received her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on April 6. 

Her father, Richard Whitmer, the retired president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, owns a condominium in West Palm Beach, according to property records. 

Whitmer’s office said her father was fully vaccinated and the trip was not paid for by taxpayers.

Ted Goodman, the spokesperson of the Michigan Republican Party, called out Whitmer for what he said is a double standard.

“Gretchen Whitmer’s blatant display of hypocrisy is an insult to every single Michigander impacted by her lockdown orders and travel warnings," Goodman said. 

“Not only did Whitmer and her top staffers vacation to Florida, but they tried to keep it a secret because for Whitmer, it's—rules for thee, but not for me."

Whitmer was already facing questions over travel after a top aide who is overseeing the state’s vaccine plan, Tricia Foster, vacationed in Florida, and state Health Department Director Elizabeth Hertel spent spring break in Alabama while the third wave surged in Michigan. 

Whitmer’s health department has recommended against travel on multiple occasions, including during the December holiday season, and most recently, during the latest COVID-19 surge.

A revised travel guidance, released by the state health department on April 5,  suggested Michigan residents “delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”

Whitmer has defended Hertel and Foster, saying she will not “get distracted by partisan hit jobs on my team.” 

In a press conference last week, the governor falsely claimed there have “never been travel restrictions in Michigan” even though in an April 2020 order she briefly barred residents from traveling between two residences, except for purposes like caring for a relative. 

“What we have done is ask people to be smart and get vaccinated and mask up,” Whitmer said. “That is the key to traveling with confidence that you’re going to be safe and not expose yourself or your loved ones to COVID or your community to COVID.”

Whitmer's administration also has made a point of noting that Foster was fully vaccinated when she went south, while Hertel had received one of two doses.

Michigan’s most recent COVID surge began in early to mid-March, when cases spiked from nearly 1,500 per day on March 5 to 3,730 on March 19. On March 29, Michigan became the state with the highest positivity rate in the nation, with 12 percent.  Cases hit nearly 9,000 on Friday.

In the past month, Whitmer has at least twice publicly spoken out how travel between Florida and Michigan can spread the virus.

Earlier this month, Whitmer spoke about the dangers of traveling to Florida while touring an Oakland County vaccination site, noting that at the time the states ranked Nos. 1 and 2 for variants.

On Sunday, during an appearance on "Meet the Press," Whitmer said travel to and from Florida by snow birds and spring breakers “can contribute to the spread.”

During the appearance, Whitmer blamed the GOP-controlled Legislature and the state Supreme Court for her failure to add new restrictions to the pandemic, even though her powers have not changed in more than six months.

Late Monday, House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, said Whitmer's "‘do as I say, not as I do’ nonsense must stop." He noted that many constituents haven't been able to travel out-of-state to visit sick relatives.

“I don’t understand how the governor thinks it’s OK for her and members of her administration to travel out-of-state, while issuing recommendations to the rest of us that we stay home," Lowell said. "How can anyone be expected to follow such guidance when the governor and her staff doesn’t follow it themselves."

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