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Oakland County Warns That Royal Oak Bar Customers May Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

At least three people who visited Fifth Avenue sports bar later tested positive for COVID-19

A line of people stands outside Fifth Avenue at night.
Fifth Avenue on April 6, 2019.
Fifth Avenue [Official photo]
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.

Three people who visited Royal Oak’s Fifth Avenue club and sports bar have tested positive for COVID-19, Oakland County confirmed on Monday evening. The three individuals visited the popular bar on Friday, June 19 and later started to show symptoms of a novel coronavirus infection.

Health officials are advising anyone who visited Fifth Avenue on June 19 to self-monitor for symptoms of the virus. Symptoms of COVID-19 can arise between two and or 14 days after exposure to the novel coronavirus.

The patrons told Oakland County Health Division case investigators that the bar was crowded at the time of their visit — suggesting that customers were not social distancing. A state executive order permitted bars and restaurants around the state to reopen on Monday, June 8 at 50 percent capacity with six feet of social distance between groups.

Eater has reached out to Fifth Avenue for comment and will update this post if more information becomes available.

Eater reached out to the Oakland County Health Division’s medical director Dr. Russell Faust who confirmed that the three individual cases appeared to share no commonalities except having been present at Fifth Avenue on June 19 around the same period of time. Faust points out that unlike a closed event like a pool party, public spaces like bars and restaurants make contact tracing more challenging because there’s no list of names contact tracers can use to identify and notify all the patrons who visited the location. “You have literally hundreds of people potentially exposed,” he says, which is why the county instead puts out a news release.

According to social media posts, Fifth Avenue was among many bars in the state that reopened on June 8. The bar’s website currently lists measures it’s taking to help limit the spread of the virus including: taking guests’ temperatures; cleaning surfaces regularly; using disposable drinkware and plates and menus; using virtual menus; enforcing mask use when not seated; requiring masks to enter the building; and keeping tables six feet apart. It’s not clear if those measures were being enforced on June 19 and the bar hasn’t issued a statement about the cases.

Oakland County officials are now urging restaurants, bars, and nightclubs to take mask requirements, capacity limits, and social distancing seriously. “We have made good progress in managing what is a highly contagious virus and we can’t backslide now. Social distancing and facial coverings work and they are critical to our safe reopening strategies,” Oakland County executive David Coulter said in a release.

The announcement comes at a time when many states are pausing and rolling back reopening plans in response to new surges of cases. Many areas are targeting bars in particular, which appear to be having a more difficult time enforcing rules around social distancing and mask use. Ingham County imposed new restrictions on restaurant capacity on Monday in the aftermath of an outbreak tied to a massive college bar, Harper’s, in East Lansing. There are currently 107 positive cases of COVID-19 associated with the bar. Several other businesses have closed temporarily for cleaning as a precaution in recent days after coming into contact with staff or patrons who later tested positive for COVID-19.

Faust says that many of the new cases associated with restaurants and bars involve younger people who may view themselves as impervious to the virus. To those people he warns: “This is not the time to let down your guard and get infected, because you’re going to take that home to your parents or grandparents in your community and we’re going to lose a whole generation.” Faust notes, “We have had fatalities [in people] well below the age of 20. This is not just an old person’s disease.”

Anyone who is concerned or is showing symptoms of the disease in Oakland County can call 800-848-5533 to arrange for a free, next-day COVID-19 test. No prescriptions are required and you don’t need to be symptomatic.

He further advocated for small measures to help prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. “Greater than 90 percent of this can be solved with two simple behaviors: wearing a mask and social distancing,” Faust says. “We can put a stop to this. This is not rocket science. This is not the time to be complacent.”

Update, June 30, 11 a.m.: This story has been updated with comments from Dr. Russell Faust.

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COVID-19 Potential Exposure Reported at Fifth Avenue Royal Oak [Official]
Fifth Avenue Website [Official]
Outbreak Connected to East Lansing Bar Balloons to 107 Cases, Spreads to Grosse Pointe Area [ED]