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Michigan HHS Director Reportedly Vacationed Out-of-State as COVID Cases Surged

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer addresses the media in Midland, Mich., about the flooding along the Tittabawassee River, May 20, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel went on a vacation to Alabama last week as Michigan’s COVID cases soared and officials urged residents to stay home, according to a new report.

Hertel reportedly traveled to Gulf Shores, Ala. with her immediate family “but was regularly updated on Michigan’s growing COVID-19 case numbers and was available to issue any new public health orders, if necessary,” according to MIRS News.

She later defended the trip, according to the outlet, saying she had followed federal and state guidance on mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The health official said her family wore masks, stayed in their own condo unit and remained at least six feet from others while at the beach.

The family drove 18 hours to their vacation spot without making any stops, visiting only drive-thru eateries for meals, and each family member was tested upon their return, she said.

Asked why travel is more acceptable now, while COVID numbers in the state are surging, Hertel said, “We know now the things that work in lessening the risk of acquiring COVID-19.”

“Wearing masks. Social distancing. Washing hands. Vaccinating. Staying away from large gatherings. Continuing to do those things have kept us safe,” she said, according to MIRS.

Hertel added that she was “working the whole time” and that the trip “wasn’t much of a break for me.”

The report comes after Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, asked Michiganders not to travel for spring break and Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail cautioned that “delaying travel is the safest course of action.” 

National Review has reached out to Hertel for comment.

Earlier this week reports revealed that Tricia Foster, Michigan’s Chief Operating Officer who is tasked with overseeing the state’s vaccine rollout, also traveled out-of-state to spring break in Siesta Key, Fla.

During a MIRS podcast interview, Whitmer responded to news of Foster’s vacation by saying, “We all need to show one another a little bit of grace. We’re all eager to get out.”

Meanwhile, as COVID cases in the state have surged, the governor asked schools to voluntarily switch to remote learning after spring break. She also unsuccessfully lobbied the Biden administration for more vaccines to be sent to the state amid the increase in cases.

Whitmer’s press secretary, Bobby Leddy, told Newsweek that a Breitbart report about Foster’s travel amounted to “a partisan attack from a garbage white nationalist website.”

He noted that Foster “is fully recovered from COVID and fully vaccinated” and cited guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that fully vaccinated people can travel domestically.

The Michigan GOP blasted Whitmer and her staff over the reports on Wednesday.

“The sheer brazenness of Gov. Whitmer and her staff is truly something else,” Ted Goodman, communications director of the Michigan Republican Party, said in a statement. “The fact that Whitmer and her top staff think it’s appropriate to travel out of state on vacation as Michigan faces the worst COVID numbers of any state in the country just reveals the arrogance and condescending nature of this administration. Whitmer’s position on the draconian lockdown orders is simple—rules for thee, but not for me.”

National Review has reached out to Whitmer’s office for comment.

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

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