LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer traveled out of state more than a month ago to visit her elderly father, a snowbird who has lived in Florida and has a chronic disease, her office said Monday.
The disclosure confirmed reporting by the Lansing-based publication MIRS. It came weeks after the governor warned the public about spring break trips, particularly to Florida, amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Two of her top aides, including Michigan's health director, vacationed in southern states despite a state recommendation to avoid travel.
Spokesman Bobby Leddy said Whitmer “did not go on spring break" and went to “assist her elderly father, who is battling a chronic illness.” He did not say which state she visited, but the governor said early in the pandemic that her father was a snowbird in Florida with “compromised lung function, and I'm worried about him.”
The trip was her third out of state in the past six months, Leddy said. She went to President Joe Biden's inauguration in January and visited National Guard troops in Washington, D.C., in March.
“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," he said.
Whitmer, who got her first vaccine shot April 6, was not vaccinated when she visited her father but is regularly tested for COVID-19. Her father, 81-year-old Richard Whitmer — a retired president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan — was fully vaccinated.
The Michigan Republican Party accused the Democratic governor of hypocrisy. Spokesman Ted Goodman called it an “insult to every single Michigander impacted by her lockdown orders and travel warnings."
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Thomas Albert, a Lowell Republican, said he understands the desire to visit an ill relative.
“But I have heard countless stories of heartbroken Michiganders who wanted to visit sick family members during this pandemic and haven’t been able to do so,” he said. "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.”
The state says it is safest to avoid out-of-state travel. But if it is unavoidable, residents should get fully vaccinated and, if they cannot, be tested three to five days after returning and self-quarantine for seven days even if the test is negative.