Michigan Health Officials Link Over 85 COVID-19 Cases to Local Bar

By Lorenz Duchamps

Health officials in Michigan have linked at least 85 people who tested positive for the CCP virus in recent weeks to a popular bar that reopened in early June.

People who visited Harper’s Restaurant & Brew Pub in East Lansing between June 12 and June 20 are being urged to self-quarantine for 14 days and report cases of COVID-19, the Ingham County Health Department said in a news release.

“Given the number of cases in this outbreak, we consider this a higher risk exposure than a typical visit to a restaurant or bar,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “There are likely more people infected with COVID-19 not yet identified. We need help from people who went to Harper’s during the exposure dates so that we can contain the outbreak. We need everyone exposed to stay home.”

Everyone who tested positive for the virus after visiting the bar are between the ages of 18 and 23, officials said. None have been hospitalized so far and most are showing mild symptoms, with four being asymptomatic.

The popular restaurant reopened again at half capacity on June 8 to an exuberant college crowd. Harper’s announced in a statement on Facebook that it had been unable to enforce social distancing outside of the bar.

“We have attempted to instruct customers waiting in line to wear face coverings and practice social distancing through signage on the public sidewalk and with a banner on our railing,” the bar wrote on Facebook.

“Our oversight of the line on our stairs has been successful, but trying to get customers to follow our recommendations on the public sidewalk has been challenging,” the statement continued.

Harper’s said on June 22 it will close again voluntarily for a temporary period to install air purifiers and to eliminate lines.

“Today we have chosen to close temporarily to do two things—implement a program to eliminate lines, and to modify our HVAC system to install an air purifying technology while the air is being conditioned and re-circulated,” according to the post. “When we have finished implementing these two strategies, we will have the most state-of-the-art neighborhood venue for you to visit safely.”

In several Michigan counties, employees are pushing for businesses to close again. In Washtenaw County, about an hour outside of Detroit, 1,300 servers have signed a petition asking county officials to close restaurants until COVID-19 is no longer a public health threat. They are scheduled to present the petition at a meeting on Wednesday.

NTD Photo
A Five Guys restaurant is closed due to the CCP virus outbreak in Detroit, Mich., on March 24, 2020. (Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images)

“Bar culture promotes mingling, and in a tipping industry, are you going to have a fight with a customer about wearing a mask?” said one area bartender, who asked to remain anonymous because she fears her job could be impacted.

Michigan health officials said to prevent the spread of the CCP virus, “people should maintain a distance of 6 feet away from others, wear a mask or face covering, wash their hands, and stay home if ill.”

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 63,497 as of Monday, including 5,915 deaths, state officials announced.

Monday’s update represents an increase of 236 confirmed cases and four additional deaths. Sunday’s total was 63,261 confirmed cases and 5,911 deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.