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Jacques: Restrictions for thee, not for me


While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s top health officials are still closely monitoring our actions and restricting all kinds of normal activities, they apparently have no problem defying their own recommendations. 

Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and Tricia Foster, Whitmer’s chief operating officer who is overseeing the vaccine rollout strategy, both recently traveled out of state for spring break beach getaways — all while Michigan is battling its worst wave of the pandemic since last fall. 

I’m sure their vacations were much deserved, but it’s the blatant hypocrisy in their actions — and Whitmer’s, in her strong defense of her staff — that is rubbing people the wrong way. 

Go to the state coronavirus response website, and you'll see a large graphic warning Michiganians that “travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19.”

I guess that’s just for the rest of us, and not those who are setting the rules. 

"Whitmer's newly appointed Health Director and COO both defied suggestions against traveling as Michigan leads the country in new COVID cases," stated Tori Sachs, executive director of Michigan Rising Action, which advocates for conservative causes. "Whitmer's request to give her vacationing aides 'a little bit of grace' falls flat when the state is handing out hundreds of citations and even arresting people for COVID-19 rule violations. The rules for thee but not for me mentality needs to end immediately." 

Whitmer has for months chided residents to “do their part” and follow the “science” in helping stop the spread of the virus. 

Through Health Department epidemic orders, Whitmer and her aides have curtailed how many people can gather in their homes, set capacity limits at churches and restaurants and even shuttered schools. 

And Whitmer and Hertel have consistently said travel should be avoided. 

Without being fully vaccinated, Hertel went with her family to the Alabama coast. And Foster traveled to Florida.

When Breitbart first reported the news about Foster’s vacation, after she posted some photos to social media, Whitmer’s office responded by slamming the conservative news organization, even though the report was accurate. 

“This is a partisan attack from a garbage White nationalist website,” spokesman Bobby Leddy stated. 

At a Wednesday press conference, when asked again about her traveling aides, Whitmer shot back that these were merely “partisan hit jobs” on her staff, whom she said deserved some “grace.” 

I’m sure the Michigan restaurant and business owners facing fines and those who’ve even been jailed for trying to keep their businesses afloat during Whitmer’s lockdowns would appreciate some of that grace. 

Whitmer also outright lied at her press conference when she said “there have never been travel restrictions in Michigan.”

Starting last April during some of the most extreme state lockdowns, Whitmer via executive order instructed residents not to travel between their own homes in the state. Later in the year, she mandated remote work and restricted nonessential business travel — which she herself violated when she flew in August to meet with Joe Biden about becoming his running mate. 

This latest hypocrisy comes as Whitmer and Republican legislative leaders remain at a standoff over allocating federal COVID relief. 

As Michigan House Appropriations chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, said in a statement:

“Governor Whitmer’s dismissal of criticism about DHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel’s out-of-state travel over spring break is another example of why her administration has a credibility problem when it comes to the state’s COVID-19 response. It’s another example of hypocrisy and failed leadership.”

ijacques@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques