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The Ingham County health official talks about coronavirus cases related to Harper̵

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Lansing State Journal

LANSING – Ingham County restaurants will be subject to stricter restrictions than the rest of Michigan due to a coronavirus outbreak in an East Lansing bar, the county health department announced Monday.

Regardless of their size, restaurants are allowed for up to 75 customers at a time. All restaurants must continue to host only half of their normal capacity, up to 75 customers.

“Large crowds are difficult to control,” Ingham County Health Director Linda Vail said in a statement on new restrictions. “By allowing no more than 75 people, restaurants and bars will be able to impose social distancing and the use of masks and facings.

“I strongly encourage all bars and restaurants to strictly enforce security measures and to do everything possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus in our community.”

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Harper’s in East Lansing is closed due to a COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak on Sunday 28 June 2020. (Photo: Robert Killips | Lansing State Journal)

An “alarming” coronavirus outbreak at Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub in East Lansing has caused a spike in local COVID-19 cases, Vail said.

As of Monday afternoon, 107 COVID-19 cases are linked to the Harper outbreak, including one forced LeRoy’s Classic Bar and Grill to close Lansing south.

Meanwhile, Ingham County is witnessing a dramatic increase in new cases. Nearly 50 were reported on the weekend, putting the county at 961 confirmed cases.

The nearby Eaton and Clinton counties saw 11 and 6 new cases over the weekend, respectively. Some are related to Harper, health officials said.

More: Ingham County sees the highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases

The Harper epidemic extends “substantially from southwest Michigan to the lake [Michigan]”Vail said, including cases in the Detroit Metro and Calhoun County.

The attention gained from the epidemic has further expanded. National news broadcasts have gathered the story and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio cited it as a reason why it may delay the possibility of dining indoors in the city.

Although the outbreak is worrying, attention serves as a reminder to take COVID-19 seriously, Vail said.

“The focus I think is making some young people spend” a-ha “moments and making people go in general,” we are not succeeding, “he said.

Vail reviewed the rules for restaurants operating during the coronavirus pandemic – which, if there are no local restrictions, allow restaurants to open with 50% – due to the Harper outbreak.

Harper will not be allowed to reopen until Vail gives explicit permission, he said.

“I have to see a plan for them,” he said. “I need to know what they’re doing. They have to be rated and can’t open [until then]”.

County health workers have the authority to impose stricter rules than the state during public health emergencies.

The Gretchen Whitmer government has allowed Michigan restaurants to reopen with precautions – such as limiting capacity, requiring staff to wear masks and close self-service stations – starting June 8.

In an email, Whitmer’s spokesman, Tiffany Brown, said the governor’s team is monitoring case numbers and will adjust the meal rules accordingly. It is up to bar and restaurant owners and customers to act safely by distancing themselves from social networks, wearing masks and taking safety precautions.

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Ingham County health officials are contacted to trace the Harper epidemic when cases are identified. It was challenging because patients don’t always know the identity of the people they were close to the bar.

The health department is better equipped to find people now than it was at the start of the pandemic, but it may not be enough to prevent the spread of the virus as it did in March and April.

“We are in a different place,” said Vail. “That doesn’t mean we can’t immediately go back to the other side.”

Contact Carol Thompson at ckthompson@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter @thompsoncarolk. Reporter Ken Palmer contributed to this story.

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