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Washtenaw County Traces 13 COVID-19 Cases to Two Ann Arbor Restaurants

Customers who visited the Brown Jug or Chapala Mexican Restaurant on certain dates in October are being advised to monitor their symptoms and avoid interacting with others for 14 days

Tube containing a swab sample that has tested positive for COVID-19. Myriam B/Shutterstock
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

On Monday, October 12, the Washtenaw County Health Department issued a new alert indicating the possibility of public exposure at two Ann Arbor restaurants — the Brown Jug and Chapala Mexican Restaurant. As of the date of the release a total of 13 positive COVID-19 cases had been tied to those establishments.

The fact that the county is identifying the locations at all is somewhat unusual, though not unprecedented. “In most situations, we can contact individuals exposed to COVID-19 directly,” Jimena Loveluck, a health officer for Washtenaw County says in a statement. “Unfortunately, with the number of positive cases that report visiting each of these establishments at crowded times, there is a possibility of widespread, public exposure.”

Health officials are advising that anyone who visited Chapala on Thursday, October 1 or the Brown Jug on Thursday, October 1 and Saturday, October 3 or on Tuesday, October 6 self-monitor for symptoms and and stay away from others “as much as possible for 14 days after last visiting either establishment.”

So far, only Chapala Mexican Restaurant has addressed the cases in a statement to social media. “Chapala applauds the diligence of local officials in identifying our business as a destination of a recently diagnosed patient,” the restaurant’s operator wrote in a post to Facebook. “We fully expect a much more complete report of the various retail, restaurant and public spaces these victims of Covid have visited in the same time frame. The public should expect nothing less than a full contact trace report and not just a single instance of a visit to one or two restaurants. This full reporting will ensure that anyone that may have had contact will have a fair chance of assessing their exposure.”

Chapala is thankful to the health and safety departments in Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor for their efforts...

Posted by Chapala Mexican Restaurant and Bar on Monday, October 12, 2020

Both restaurants are close to the University of Michigan campus. The department advisory notes that young, college-aged people have been fueling local cases, with 80 percent of those reported in the two weeks ending Wednesday, October 7 being among people ages 18 to 22 years old.

Young people appear to be slightly less at risk of experiencing severe effects from the virus, but COVID-19 is still a dangerous and highly contagious disease. People as young as two-months old have died in Michigan from COVID-19 complications. Others have experienced lasting health issues including fatigue, cognitive problems, and heart and lung damage.

A large proportion of new and ongoing outbreaks across the state in recent weeks have been traced to colleges, universities, and K-12 schools. The state reported a total of 23 new and ongoing bar and restaurant outbreaks during the week of October 8, though those numbers do not appear to account for the Washtenaw County outbreaks. The state released an advisory on Tuesday, October 13 urging citizens to take additional COVID-19 precautions due to a week-over-week increase in positive cases and hospitalizations.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is also reminding people across the state that mask and capacity orders, as well as gathering restrictions and worker protection orders are still in effect through the department, despite a Supreme Court decision that struck down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency orders. Washtenaw County has enacted additional restrictions regarding social gatherings to help slow the spread of the virus.

People who believe they may have come in contact with the novel coronavirus should get tested. Even a person who is without symptoms can still spread the virus.

Possible COVID-19 Exposures at Two Local Restaurants [Washtenaw County]
Tracking COVID-19 Outbreaks in Michigan’s Food Industry [ED]