TRAVERSE CITY — Health officials tagged a slew of local businesses as possible COVID-19 exposure sites after a group with several infected people recently went wine tasting and bar hopping over two days in Traverse City.
Grand Traverse County Health Department officials on Wednesday announced eight businesses both on Old Mission Peninsula and inside Traverse City as the route traveled by a group of people, several of whom later tested positive for the contagious pandemic disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Officials said they did not practice physical distancing or other prevention measures.
“This is a sobering reminder that the virus is still circulating in Michigan and northern Michigan. We need to continue to be vigilant and practice social distancing, wearing a mask and being mindful that this is far from over,” said Wendy Hirschenberger, health officer for Grand Traverse County.
The group of visitors traveled together around Grand Traverse County first on June 18 for a wine-tasting tour, followed by a bar-hopping outing June 19.
They are not Grand Traverse County residents and admitted to not practicing social distancing or other prevention measures, confirmed Emmy Schumacher, public information officer for the health department.
“They were very open and honest with our communicable disease team,” she said. “We count on people’s honesty and candidness when doing our investigations. It’s the only way we can really alert the public and possible close contacts to exposure.”
The listed businesses and times of potential exposures are:
- Mari Vineyards, 1-2 p.m. June 18
- Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, 2-3 p.m. June 18
- Bowers Harbor Vineyards, 3:30-4:30 p.m. June 18
- Amical, 7-8:30 p.m. June 18
- Hotel Indigo’s rooftop bar, 8-9 p.m. June 19
- Little Fleet, 9-10:30 p.m. June 19
- Low Bar, 10:45-11:30 p.m June 19
- Kilkenny’s Irish Public House, 11:45 p.m.-1:45 a.m. June 19-20
Health officials advise anyone in those places during those times should self-monitor themselves and household members for symptoms of COVID-19.
Employees of those businesses worried about exposure to the group can call the health department’s communicable disease line at 231-995-6801.
“Just because we have reopened, does not mean we can relax our protective actions. Anyone could have COVID-19 and you might not know because some people with coronavirus are not yet sick, and some people never have signs of the disease,” Hirschenberger said in a released statement. “I strongly urge everyone to take precautions so that we can keep infections down and keep businesses open.”
The eight impacted businesses were notified on Wednesday.
Bill Maier, chief financial officer at Bowers Harbor Vineyards, said the health of both their employees and customers is of foremost importance, which is why the business is only serving outdoors, requires masks and does not currently offer wine samples to reduce risks of cross-contamination during pours.
A closure and deep-cleaning is not planned at Bowers Harbor, but enhanced sanitation measures for the pandemic will be continued without waver, Maier said.
He also said he’s hopeful Wednesday’s news won’t scare future customers away.
“I believe folks are aware of the heightened sanitation processes,” Maier said. “We only control what we can control.”
The news of the string of possible exposure sites came on a day when state health officials announced another four cases across the 17-county region, one each in Crawford, Emmet, Manistee and Otsego counties. That brings regional totals to 510 confirmed cases and 43 reported deaths, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Michigan now stands at nearly 62,000 confirmed cases and more than 5,800 reported deaths, after Wednesday’s announced 323 additional cases and four deaths.
The United States has nearly 2,370,000 cases and nearly 122,000 reported deaths, compared to 9.3 million cases and more than 479,000 deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.