Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer apologized Sunday after violating state-mandated social distancing guidelines at an East Lansing bar and grill. But this isn’t the first time Whitmer has broken her own rules while demanding others follow them.
It was the latest pandemic-related screw up for the Democratic governor, who waited weeks to disclose partial details of a private jet trip she took to visit her father in Florida after two of her top aides headed south as coronavirus cases surged in Michigan and residents were told not to travel south for spring break.
A photo circulated on social media of Whitmer with a large group of unmasked people at an East Lansing bar-restaurant, The Landshark Bar & Grill.
The photo, which shows Whitmer seated with about a dozen people, was posted on social media by one of the attendees who was a friend of the governor, but was later deleted.
‘Throughout the pandemic, I´ve been committed to following public health protocols,’ Whitmer said in a statement Sunday.
‘Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn´t stop to think about it. In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize.’
Michigan restaurants and bars remain subject to capacity limits and social distancing requirements.
Current orders require six people or fewer at tables and distances of 6 feet between tables.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says ‘consumption of food or beverages is permitted only where patrons are seated, groups of patrons are separated by at least 6 feet, no more than 6 patrons are seated at a table, and groups of patrons do not intermingle.’
Whitmer, a Democrat, also faced criticism from Republicans after she traveled to Florida in March before being vaccinated to visit her ailing elderly father.
‘Gov. Whitmer continues to defy her own COVID rules while her administration punishes and fines others for not adhering to her strict orders,’ said Tori Sachs, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative political organization.
‘Whitmer has proven time and again that she doesn’t follow the rules she imposes.’
Last week, Whitmer announced all of the remaining mask-wearing and social distancing restrictions would be lifted on July 1, regardless of whether a person had been vaccinated or not.
COVID restrictions for bars, restaurants and workplaces are also expected to be lessoned come June.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced fully-vaccinated Americans could finally stop wearing their masks almost anywhere – indoors or outdoors.
Those who have finished their shot regimen can now go out to eat, see a movie, shake hands and give hugs at will, according to the new guidance.
The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but could ease restrictions for reopening workplaces and schools. People who are fully vaccinated but immunocompromised people may still be advised by their doctors to keep masking.
However, the CDC’s recommendation is just that – an unenforceable recommendation. States, cities and businesses can still require masks.
Whitmer, who received her second vaccination dose April 29, is considered fully vaccinated but she is not the first public official to draw criticism for defying pandemic-related rules.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who won plaudits for issuing the first statewide stay-at-home order in the U.S. back in March, 2020, later drew criticism after he broke the state rules.
Newsom and his wife were caught dining with 10 others at the posh French Laundry restaurant in Napa in early November with lobbyists and others from numerous different households, sitting close together, mask-less.
Newsom quickly apologized, saying he ‘made a bad mistake’ but noting the gathering was outdoors.
Within days, photos emerged showing the group in a room that was enclosed on three sides with a sliding glass door on the other, maybe meeting the technical definition of outdoors, but perhaps not the spirit.