A number of Superior bars have closed their doors as a precaution against possible COVID-19 exposure, according to posts on their Facebook pages. The wave of closures comes as Douglas County is seeing a surge in confirmed cases of the disease.
Numbers had held steady for three weeks before two positive cases were reported Thursday, June 25, according to Public Health Officer Kathy Ronchi. More confirmed cases were reported over the weekend, and by Tuesday, June 30, the county total rose to 30, Ronchi said.
The spate of positive cases is a reminder that precautionary steps like social distancing, hand washing and disinfecting are still crucial, she said.
"We've talked for weeks now about the virus is still active in our community," Ronchi said. "But I think we all kind of let our guards down a little bit when we went for three weeks without a new case."
The most recent cases include people in their 20s and 50s. Many of them visited numerous Superior bars and restaurants prior to testing positive, some while exhibiting mild symptoms. Due to the number of crowded, indoor public spaces the newest patients went to, Ronchi said she would not be surprised if the number of confirmed cases rises higher.
“So mild symptoms matter,” she said. “It’s an expectation that customers do their part and stay home when they’re sick.”
A number of businesses have taken proactive steps.
Tavern 105 in Superior’s South End neighborhood announced Monday, June 29, that it was voluntarily closing until July 7 to disinfect and sanitize the entire establishment because at least one individual who had been inside the tavern within the past week had been in direct contact with a newly-confirmed COVID-19 patient.
Tipsy Beaver Bar at 3823 E. Second St. posted Tuesday, June 30, that the bar would be closed for an undetermined amount of time to properly clean and disinfect the building because an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 visited the establishment in the last two weeks.
“We were notified last night and chose to close the bar immediately to air on the side of safety,” said owners Alexandra LaFleur and Millisa Tollers. “We are new to the area, but have worked hard to make sure our patrons and employees know their safety is our utmost priority.”
Later Tuesday, Log Cabin Tavern on South County Road E posted that it was closing due to a COVID-19 exposure over the weekend. The establishment said it plans to reopen July 7 after tests come back and cleaning is complete, although it may open for takeout pizza sooner.
“If you were in our bar on Saturday night, please consider getting yourself tested,” the Log Cabin post read.
Charlie Brown's Bar in Billings Park announced Tuesday on Facebook that the establishment would voluntarily close down for one week "until we know exactly what is going on for your safety and ours sorry for any inconvenience."
A few other establishments have followed suit. None of the closures was mandated by the health department, Ronchi said, and preventing the spread of COVID-19 is possible without shutdowns if people act responsibly.
“Out of respect for the business owners who are doing the right thing, that's not necessary, but people need to behave in a way that supports the business and that means maintaining the social distance and disinfection and those kinds of things," Ronchi said.
Close contact indoors should be considered risky behavior. Staying 6 feet apart and disinfection are key. Masks are also a good idea.
“This is why the rules are important,” Ronchi said. “We are identifying one or two people who have visited these different places. I think it could have been a much bigger outbreak without all of the disinfection and sanitizing and things that are being done.”
The Douglas County Health Department is reaching out to people who may have been exposed, which includes people who were within 6 feet of a person with a positive case for more than 15 minutes. They will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days at home. If they develop symptoms, people will need to quarantine themselves as best as they can from the rest of the household.
Even a negative test result can be misleading, Ronchi said, because a person could develop the disease any time within the 14-day window.
Ronchi said younger people who have tested positive for the disease reported an onset of mild symptoms, including headaches, sinus pain similar to allergies and fatigue that doesn’t get better.
Of the new batch of confirmed cases, Ronchi said one has been hospitalized. To date, three Douglas County residents have been hospitalized with the disease. One was in the hospital for weeks.
Testing is available through Essentia Health, St. Luke’s and Lake Superior Community Health Center for people exhibiting symptoms.
This story was updated at 5:23 p.m. with comments from Kathy Ronchi, Douglas County Health Officer. It was originally posted at 1:02 p.m.