Top Michigan health official traveled out of state amid COVID-19 spike

Elizabeth Hertel testifies before lawmakers on Feb. 9.
Elizabeth Hertel testifies before lawmakers on Feb. 9.(WLUC)
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 3:33 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel traveled with family to Alabama for spring break despite her department’s guidance to avoid out-of-state travel.

The advice came while Michigan battles a raging coronavirus outbreak, which the worst among all 50 states currently. The trip was first reported by Lansing-based publication MIRS.

The disclosure came days after Breitbart News reported a top aide to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, chief operating officer Tricia Foster, traveled to Florida for spring break despite the governor having expressed “concern” about trips there.

Florida had the highest count of confirmed COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant cases at the time with Michigan the second highest.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which Hertel has led since January, recommends that people not travel. Hertel and Foster are fully vaccinated.

The Michigan Republican Party criticized the trips.

Whitmer did not condemn the travel among her top aides during a press conference on Wednesday. She said Michigan has no official travel restrictions, but state health officials have recommended people be smart when traveling and get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“What directors do on their personal time is their business as long as they are safe,” Whitmer said.

She said her strongest response to the travel controversy would be continued advice for everyone age 16 and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.