Top Whitmer aide's Florida trip stirs controversy

A few days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was worried about the COVID-19 dangers of Michiganians traveling to Florida, one of her top aides posted photos of herself traveling there.

Tricia Foster, the governor’s chief operating officer, posted photos on Facebook of her family vacationing in Siesta Key south of Tampa earlier this week.

Chief Operating Officer Tricia Foster speaks during a press conference in Lansing, Wednesday, January 13, 2020.

The photos, which have since been removed, were captured by Breitbart News and posted in a story Friday on its website. The story also shows screenshots of Foster’s comments about the trip, which were obtained by The Detroit News.

On April 2, Whitmer said she was concerned about residents traveling on spring break, especially to Florida. The Sunshine State was the only state that had more cases than Michigan of a contagious variant that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

Critics of Whitmer’s policies related to coronavirus leaped on the revelation.

"Warnings 'are for thee... not for we,’" tweeted Tori Sachs, a Republican activist from Williamston. Sachs is executive director for Michigan Rising Action.

A screenshot of text messages indicating Whitmer aide Tricia Foster was in a Florida resort area.

Foster didn’t immediately respond Friday evening to an email asking for comment.

A spokesman for the governor didn’t refute the Breitbart report but blasted the conservative news site.

“This is a partisan attack from a garbage white nationalist website,” spokesman Bobby Leddy said in a statement. "Trish Foster is fully recovered from COVID and fully vaccinated."

He pointed out the CDC issued new guidelines this week that support fully vaccinated people traveling within the U.S. without needing to be tested for the disease, or self-quarantining themselves afterward.

During her remarks on April 2, Whitmer had recommended that people get tested after any type of travel, including in-state. Michigan had the worst infection rate in the U.S. the two prior weeks.

The state continues to lead the nation in new cases and positive test rates.

On Friday, Whitmer requested but didn’t order several measures for the next two weeks: high schools to offer remote education, youth sports to pause activity and people to avoid eating indoors at restaurants.

Foster became chief operating office in April 2020 after serving as director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

In her new role, she manages cabinet affairs and administrative functions within the executive office.

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Twitter: @prima_donnelly