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Michigan governor apologizes for social distancing blunder

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer apologized Sunday 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, 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 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, The Landshark Bar & Grill, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday. The Free Press reported that photo, which shows Whitmer seated with about a dozen, 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."

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 (1.83 meters) between tables.

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 Governor 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.

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