Governor Gretchen Whitmer is blaming “snowbirds” returning from winter Florida trips for Michigan’s spike in Covid-19 infections, just days after calling for “grace” when a top staffer was caught escaping to the Sunshine State.
“At the end of the day, this is going to come down to whether or not everyone does their part,” Whitmer said Sunday on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ program, adding that Michigan ranks behind only Florida in the B117 Covid variant.
Michigan and Florida are not next to each other, but this is the time of the year that snowbirds come home from Florida, where people are going on spring break, and all of these things can contribute to spread.
Whitmer seemed to take a different view in an interview last Monday, when she responded to criticism that Tricia Foster, the governor’s chief operating officer, had vacationed in Siesta Key, Florida, just a few days after Michigan warned against travel amid the state’s Covid surge. Also after Whitmer’s travel warning, the governor’s new health director, Elizabeth Hertel, went to the beach town of Gulf Shores, Alabama.
“We’ve never had any travel restrictions in Michigan, and I’ve just encouraged people that if they travel to be safe, mask up, get vaccinated,” Whitmer said of the Foster controversy.
We all need to show one another a little bit of grace. We’re all eager to get out.
Whitmer’s press secretary, Bobby Leddy, called coverage of Foster’s trip by Breitbart a “partisan attack from a garbage white nationalist website.” He confirmed that the report was true.
Michigan has led the nation in new Covid-19 cases in recent weeks. It averaged nearly 61 new cases per 100,000 people in the past week, double Florida’s rate and more than eight times the per capita average in Texas, which ended its mask mandate and other pandemic restrictions last month.
Whitmer has imposed some of the tightest Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in the nation. In fact, some of her orders were even declared unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court in October.
The staff travel controversy isn’t the first time the governor has been accused of setting Covid “rules for thee but not for me.” Last May, she urged Michigan residents not to jam the state’s waterfront attractions on Memorial Day weekend, after lockdown rules were eased, but her husband reportedly tried to arrange a trip to a popular area on Traverse Bay. He also asked if his boat could be put in the water sooner at the local marina because of his wife’s position. Whitmer dismissed the request as “a failed attempt at humor.”