MDHHS director takes senators’ questions on Gordon, COVID-19 restrictions

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LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel testified before a state Senate committee Thursday, questioned about coronavirus mitigation measures from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration and the departure of her predecessor.

Hertel said she had no involvement in the separation agreement reached by former Director Robert Gordon and Whitmer’s office when he left the job in January, which included a $155,000 payment.

Asked by Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, whether it was possible that Whitmer and Gordon disagreed on lifting some restrictions on schools and businesses, Hertel replied, “Yes, it’s possible.”

She assured the members of the Advice and Consent Committee she would not accept a severance package that came with a confidentiality agreement.

There were also questions about the 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars that will go into effect Friday, pushed back an hour from current restrictions. Hertel said MDHHS looked at a number of other states to see how Michigan was measuring up on some of the restrictions.

“We had that original curfew of 10 o’clock, we moved it back to 11 o’clock because we want to make sure we are minimizing interactions between people in high-risk environments, and we know restaurants are one of the higher risk environments. That’s why we implemented the 11 o’clock curfew this time,” Hertel said.

Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, challenged Hertel on the state-mandated limit of six people dining together at restaurants, saying he comes from a family of seven.

“That’s a good question that was actually raised to me this week. It was one of those things that hadn’t been brought to my attention previously so we’re working on putting together an exception to allow for that to happen,” Hertel said. “You’re right; if those seven people are together in a household normally, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to have dinner together in a restaurant.”

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