Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail told ELi at 6:30 p.m. tonight that the number of COVID-19 cases tied to Harper’s in downtown East Lansing has risen to 22. She said that number includes one employee.
Under the Governor’s Executive Orders, Vail notes, Harper’s will need to be deep cleaned before reopening.
ELi reported early this morning that Harper’s closed yesterday. According to owner Pat Riley, this was done voluntarily. But the governor’s Executive Order 2020-15 of June 5 requires immediately closing a restaurant if an employee tests positive.
Yesterday, signs on Harper’s door indicated the restaurant was closed to dine-in service on Monday and Tuesday without giving a reason. This evening, the bar remains closed, and those signs have been replaced with signs indicating Harper’s is now hiring.
Ingham County Health Department has the ability to shut down bars and restaurants when it identifies a public health emergency.
Vail says that contract tracing is being done on all cases of COVID-19. She notes that contract tracing for serious contagious diseases is something that the health department has been doing “since the dawn of time.”
Vail notes that people should be wearing masks when they are going to come in less than 6 feet of contact with people not in their household. But, she says, “Enforcement is the issue.”
I put to her the situation at the East Lansing Farmers Market last Sunday when three young women (college-aged) entered and shopped without masks. I asked a City of East Lansing market worker if he would tell these patrons they should be wearing masks. He responded that he was “not allowed.”
When this situation was described to her, Vail said, “Maybe their employer is not allowing them, but they are definitely allowed [under law] to tell people to wear masks.” She added that City workers could keep people out of the Farmers Market for not wearing masks, unless they claim a medical reason that they are unable to wear a mask.
Vail said she does not want situations that escalate to confrontations, and she noted that people can act righteous on both sides in ways that are counterproductive. But, she said, “What they should do is ask [patrons] before they let them in – ask them if they have a mask.” Workers should tell patrons “You should have a mask to come within 6 feet of other people,” including vendors. “If they don’t have one, you can have masks available for them, or you can turn them away.”