Michigan Gov. Whitmer to receive JFK 'Profile in Courage' award despite recent COVID-19 surge

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Thomas Barrabi
·2 min read
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Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose aggressive lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic drew a mixed reaction among state residents, will receive a "Profile in Courage" award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for her actions during the crisis.

Michigan experienced a COVID-19 surge in mid-April, including its second-highest single-day case total and its highest rate of hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. On April 16, the statewide positivity rate was higher than 14%.

Case totals have begun to drop again as Michigan makes progress in its vaccination campaign. The state reported an average of 2,517 cases per day last week, the lowest number since late March.

Whitmer is one of seven recipients honored for displaying courage despite personal risk during the pandemic, according to the foundation. Caroline Kennedy and her son, Jack Schlossberg, will present the awards at a virtual ceremony on May 26.

"These heroes went above and beyond for their community and our country, and remind us that we all can make a difference if we answer the call to serve," Schlossberg said.

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The Michigan GOP stepped up its criticism of Whitmer’s leadership in late April after a report surfaced that she had traveled out of state despite urging the public to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus. State Republicans accused Whitmer of being hypocritical.

In response to the criticism, representatives for Whitmer said she had left the state three times in six months – once for President Biden’s inauguration, once to visit members of the Michigan National Guard and once to visit her ailing father in Florida.

Whitmer is one of several Democratic state governors who drew national scrutiny during the pandemic for implementing strict lockdown measures in response to the pandemic. Proponents of Whitmer’s approach say it was necessary to protect public health as COVID-19 surged, while critics argued the measures constituted government overreach and hurt local businesses.

In October, the FBI and Michigan state authorities arrested 13 individuals who allegedly plotted to kidnap Whitmer in response to the lockdown measures.

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"Despite violent threats against her life, Whitmer did not back down," the foundation wrote in its bio of Whitmer. "She stayed focused on following the science and listening to public health experts to get the pandemic under control and start rebuilding Michigan's economy."

Other recipients for the foundation’s "COVID Courage" award include former Ohio State Health Department director Amy Acton and Louisiana business owner Burnel Cotlon.