W. MI health expert: Bars becoming COVID-19 hot spots

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Florida and Texas close bars following a surge in COVID-19 cases, West Michigan health experts say we could be next if we’re not careful.

Kent County Health Department Epidemiologist Brian Hartl said bars are becoming hot spots for the transmission of COVID-19.  

“Alcohol sometimes makes us not think as well as we typically do and then obviously it’s really difficult to drink a drink with a mask on,” Hartl said. “That type of environment doesn’t lend itself well to those precautionary measures.” 

Hartl said failing to follow health precautions could lead to more cases and the return of more restrictions.  

Just the idea of another shutdown has a local bar and restaurant owners doing all they can to keep patrons safe.  

“Even this week in Grand Rapids, a handful of restaurants had positive COVID tests from employees and guests and it absolutely scares all of us,” said Chris Andrus, co-owner of The Mitten Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids. “We fought so hard to get to this point, making money again, so to think about having to go backward is extremely difficult for any small business to bear.”

Andrus’ plea for patrons to follow the precautions got a major reaction on social media after he posted to Facebook sharing his perspective as a restaurant owner doing all he can to keep his employees and customers safe.  

“I’m surprised by how often we have to remind guests about the masks because we have signs,” Andrus said. “When you walk up to the restaurant, you can see it five or six times and (I’m) mostly disappointed because it’s not our requirement, it’s the law.”  

If you choose to go to the bars, Hartl recommends only going to establishments closely adhering to coronavirus precautions, like only operating at half capacity.