A POPULAR college bar has had to close after being linked to at least 85 coronavirus infections in Michigan, say health bosses.
Harper's Restaurant and Brew Pub, near Michigan State University, said on Facebook "trying to get customers to wear face coverings and social distance has been challenging".
The East Lansing-based pub has temporarily shut to revamp the premises, to include air purifying technology inside.
All of the people with cases linked to Harper’s are between the ages of 18 and 23, says Ingham County Health Department.
Some have permanent residence in other Michigan counties.
Anyone who visited the bar between June 12-22 has been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days from that date.
The Ingham County Health Department said infections linked to Harper's pub in East Lansing has risen to 85, reports Lansing State Journal.
Spokesperson Amanda Darche said that of the 85 infected, 23 were asymptomatic.
And a further breakdown showed that the majority – 80 – testing positive had visited Harper's between June 12-20.
A further five were "secondary infections" – after a pubgoer passed on the killer bug to others.
“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 health officer Linda Vail.
She added: “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.”
The bar had reopened on June 8.
On Facebook, Harper's posted in an update to its "friends and loyal customers for the past 23 years, it has been a very difficult time for everyone during the pandemic.
"Harper’s re-opened at 50 per cent capacity on June 8 according to the Governor’s executive order, and have welcomed back our employees and numerous customers to our restaurant and brewpub.
"The extraordinary exuberant response to our re-opening has been beyond our expectations.
"We have experienced long lines on the public sidewalk in front of our building.
"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.
"Trying to get customers to follow our recommendations on the public sidewalk has been challenging.
"Because we have no authority to control lines on public property, we are left with the dilemma of staying open and letting this situation continue, or closing until we can devise a strategy that eliminates the lines altogether."
In the end, Harper's chose "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.
"When we have finished implementing these two strategies, we will have the most state-of-the-art neighborhood venue for you to visit safely."
Harper's said it was the most responsible decision to make, even though the temporary closure "will cause a hardship on many of our employees through the loss of wages that had just re-started.
"This at a time when they are just overcoming a three-month layoff.
"They have rent, mortgages, car payments, grocery bills and everyday living expenses to address.
"But we believe for the safety of all, it is the right thing to do."
The bar has won both applause and criticism of its stance, with an annoyed Alexis Victoria sharing a pic on its Facebook page showing visitors flouting social distancing rules.
She commented: “Thanks, Harper’s! So glad that letting college kids get wasted is more important to you than the sacrifices the rest of us have made, working for remotely for months, without child care, to try to keep ourselves and our community safe.”
But, Leo Sell posted: “Sorry to hear this has to happen.
“Was pleased at the improvements you'd made during the shutdown.
“Good to hear you're going to try and do more for public health and safety.”
Five deaths and 252 new confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported Sunday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 diagnoses has reached 63,261, with a death toll of 5,912, according to the department.
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