Hundreds of new outbreaks are being carried to cities all across the state.
MICHIGAN — After four months of missing sunshine, friends, brewskis, and hot wings, Michigan State University students eagerly returned to a local haunt close to many Spartans’ hearts when it reopened in East Lansing: Harper’s Restaurant & Brew Pub.
However, their gathering may have been a bit too eager and a lot too lax. Harper’s is now the source of a coronavirus outbreak that extends well beyond the immediate area.
The pub has been a staple of the MSU and East Lansing communities since Trisha O’Brien Riley, an MSU grad, purchased the restaurant formerly known as Dooly’s back in 1997. The spot on Albert Avenue has since been used for gatherings by generations of graduating collegiate classes.
But images surfaced of long, crowded lines sans social distancing after young people gathered on the public sidewalk waiting to enter the pub. And only a few of them were seen sporting face masks.
Ingham County officially announced that 107 cases are linked to the popular bar. Their press release said that most of the coronavirus cases are in Ingham County, but other linked cases have popped up in Clinton, Oakland, Wayne, St. Clair, Macomb, Eaton, Shiawassee, Livingston, Kalamazoo, Ottawa, Berrien, and Calhoun counties.
“All of the people with cases linked to Harper’s are between the ages of 16 and 28 with a median age of 21,” Ingham county officials said. “None have been hospitalized. Most have mild symptoms with 28 people being asymptomatic. At least 40 percent are Michigan State University (MSU) students or recent graduates.”
Anyone who visited Harper’s between June 12 and 20 should consider themselves exposed to the virus and are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days since their visit, officials said.
Harper’s has deactivated its Facebook page, but a lengthy post on Instagram thanked customers and explained that the restaurant tried their best to manage crowds that didn’t want to socially distance.
The outbreak has already triggered a change in COVID-era business practices for one Grand Rapids-based restaurant and bar chain. Hopcat — which has an East Lansing location just down the street from Harper’s — is demanding safety compliance from employees and customers alike.
“If you want to partake in the privilege of eating out and drinking local craft beer from somewhere other than your couch, please understand that this is a privilege, not a right,” Hopcat said in a Facebook statement. “You have to wake up to our new reality or we won’t allow you inside our buildings. The safety of our staff and customers depends on this.”
The wave of infection that started in East Lansing reached Grosse Pointe over the weekend, where the Detroit Free Press reports 30 cases have been tied to the Harper’s outbreak more than 100 miles away.
“This is not a subject to keep quiet and pretend it doesn’t affect affluent neighborhoods such as ours. COVID takes all prisoners,” Grosse Pointe Park resident Nicole DeLano told the Free Press. “Knowledge, quarantining, and testing will stop the spread in our community.”
Unknowingly, MSU students who attended gatherings at Harper’s in East Lansing and a subsequent party brought the virus back home to the Grosse Pointes. Small infection spikes resulted in Wayne and Oakland counties.
Three positive coronavirus cases have also been identified among visitors to one Royal Oak bar.
Fifth Avenue Sports Bar excitedly welcomed back patrons in early June after keeping their doors closed for months. Video that surfaced from last weekend showed close contact between people and a severe lack of face masks. The popular restaurant and night spot has not commented since confirmed coronavirus cases were linked to it.
Ingham County has already issued an emergency order that reduced restaurant capacity back to 50%, with a maximum of 75 patrons.
“Large crowds are difficult to control,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. “By allowing no more than 75 people, restaurants and bars will be better able to enforce social distancing and the use of masks and face coverings. I strongly encourage all bars and restaurants to strictly enforce safety measures and to do all they can to help stop the spread of coronavirus in our community.”
Click here for a list of coronavirus testing sites in the state.