Michigan’s governor apologizes for social-distancing blunder

Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a podium with the U.S. flag in the background.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at Beech Woods Recreation Center in Southfield, Mich., in October.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has apologized after apparently violating state-mandated social-distancing guidelines at an East Lansing bar and grill.

It was the latest pandemic-related misstep for the Democratic governor. Whitmer 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 even as coronavirus cases surged in Michigan and residents were cautioned against traveling 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, Landshark Bar & Grill, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday. The newspaper said the photo, which shows Whitmer seated with about a dozen other people, was posted on social media by one of the attendees but 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.”

Will pockets of COVID-19 denialism and vaccine resistance in rural areas allow a wily virus to resurface and cause new outbreaks?

Michigan restaurants and bars remain subject to capacity limits and social-distancing requirements. Current orders require six people or fewer at tables, with a distance of six feet between tables.

Whitmer, who received her second COVID-19 shot 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, who won plaudits for issuing the first statewide stay-at-home order in the U.S. in March 2020, later drew criticism after he broke state rules by dining with about a dozen others at the posh French Laundry restaurant in Napa in early November. Newsom, his wife, a number of lobbyists and others from different households all sat close together, maskless.

Newsom quickly apologized, saying he “made a bad mistake” but noting that 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 fourth.