State Sen. Lana Theis today urged her Senate colleagues to consider the rejection of Elizabeth Hertel by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as director of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Theis, a Brighton Township Republican, said that while she has “known and worked with Elizabeth Hertel for years,” she questioned, “whether she is the right person to serve as the director of Michigan’s largest and arguably most important agency at this critical time in our state’s history.” Prior to her appointment as director of the MDHHS, Hertel served the agency’s Senior Chief Deputy Director for Administration. In her statement, Theis said that unless Hertel “fully commits to reopening the state immediately, to restore a fully in-person learning experience for K-12 students, and to not shutting down school sports, the Senate should reject her appointment.”

Hertel, and other state health officials, say they are basing their decisions regarding restrictions on science and the current levels of COVID-19. Of particular concern in the past month has been the spread of variants of the virus, some of which are far more transmissible. Currently, a health department order in effect until March 29th limits indoor restaurant capacity to 25%, imposes a 10pm curfew, and restricts the size of inside residential gatherings to no more than 10 people from two households.

On Wednesday, Gov. Whitmer indicated that a further loosening of restrictions was possible, although she did not provide any details. She also indicated that most school districts in Michigan were on track to offer some form of in-person instruction by March 1st.

Despite that, Theis says Hertel, when she served as previous MDHHS Director Robert Gordon’s top senior staffer, helped oversee what Theis called, “some of the worst decisions made by the Whitmer administration in response to the coronavirus,” saying “the most terrible” was placing COVID-19-positive patients into nursing homes, which Theis says “led to scores of deaths that shouldn’t have happened. That on its own was bad enough.” However, she pointed to “recent and continued public health orders” as the main rationale for opposing Hertel’s confirmation, alleging that those orders had forced, “so many of our people out of work, without any science to back it up” adding that they have been “just as devastating.”

Theis also contends that Hertel refused to provide any data or metrics concerning the reopening of the state’s schools during a recent appearance at the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee. “All of this underscores the need for increased transparency, accountability and public oversight of the executive branch.”

Request for comments were made to both Gov. Whitmer’s Office and the MDHHS, but have yet to be returned.