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UPDATE: 22 people test positive for COVID-19 after visiting Harpers, Ingham Co. Health Dept. says

Posted at 7:02 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 06:42:55-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Ingham County Health Department says 18 people have tested positive for COVID-19 after recently visiting Harper's Restaurant & Brewpub in downtown East Lansing.

The health department is encouraging people who were at Harper's between June 12 - June 20 to watch for symptoms.

"These rules are not just silliness. It's not just something we're making up. The social distancing works. The mask-wearing works. When you don't do that, you have outbreaks and that's what happened," said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.

The Ingham County Health Department said all of the people with COVID-19 cases linked to Harpers are between the ages of 19 and 23, with approximately half being linked to MSU. The health department said some have permanent residences in other Michigan counties including Barry-Eaton and Oakland.

Additionally, the health department said the increase in COVID-19 cases reported for June 22 was the largest the county had seen since May 27.

East Lansing's mayor Ruth Beier says this is exactly why she doesn't want bars and restaurants to reopen until there is a vaccine available.

"We are getting some grief that we aren't doing anything about the people in line. People have a First Amendment right to do stupid things that can kill other people. That's their right. We can encourage them to wear masks, but it's hard to encourage a line full of drunk people to do anything," said Mayor Beier.

On Monday, Harper's Restaurant & Brewpub's management announced they have closed the business and won't reopen until it has a plan to eliminate lines, according to its Facebook page.

The business also added in its post it will modify the HVAC system while closed and "install an air-purifying technology that will remove 99.4% of the COVID-19 virus."

"This decision comes after much deliberation within our family," the post says. "Although we have developed and implemented procedures above and beyond the state’s requirements for re-opening, and made significant financial investments in complete touch-free restrooms, our family feels the responsibility to do more."

The health department said health inspectors found Harper's following appropriate safety procedures related to employees, restaurant capacity and table spacing.

Harper's has operated 131 Albert Ave. for 23 years.

It has received criticism on social media for its long lines snaking out to the sidewalk while other business have been closed or are forced to follow strict social distancing practices.

The Harper's Facebook page doesn't indicate when it could reopen.

"We will keep you informed on our progress and will let you know as soon as we announce our second re-opening," the post says. "Hope to see you soon."

The health department said people with symptoms, which may develop up to 14 days after exposure, should get tested immediately for COVID-19. The health department said those without symptoms can also get tested.

As a reminder, the health department said asymptomatic infections do happen and can be contagious. Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, shortness of breath and fever.

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