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Health-care worker, 15 friends get coronavirus after going to Florida bar: ‘Too soon to open’

Erika Crisp, a 40-year-old health-care worker, contracted the novel coronavirus after going to a Jacksonville, Fla., bar with 15 of her friends on June 6.
Erika Crisp, a 40-year-old health-care worker, contracted the novel coronavirus after going to a Jacksonville, Fla., bar with 15 of her friends on June 6. Erika Crisp / Facebook

Bars have started to open back up in Florida after months of lockdown due to the novel coronavirus, but some are saying it’s “too soon,” including 16 friends who went out and caught the virus.

Erika Crisp and her 15 friends decided to enjoy a night out on June 6 after Jacksonville watering hole Lynch’s Irish Pub reopened. Crisp, 40, is a care management assistant at a local medical centre.

“We’ve all been stuck indoors for months, being careful, social distancing, doing everything the right way,” she told News4JAX.

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But less than a week after what was meant to be a fun night out, Crisp started feeling sick with the classic COVID-19 symptom of shortness of breath. She and her 15 friends all tested positive for the virus that causes the respiratory illness.

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“And then the first night we go out, Murphy’s Law, I guess,” she said. “The only thing we have in common is that night at that bar.”

On June 10, just four days after going to Lynch’s, Crisp posted on Facebook: “Welp, Florida opened back up and my butt should’ve stayed home this past weekend because I just tested positive for the damn COVID. #IKnowBetter #MyFault #WearYourMasksPeople.”

She spent the rest of the week detailing her experience with the highly contagious virus on her social media channel, describing her cough, shortness of breath, aches, chills, fever, vertigo and fatigue.

On June 13, she wrote: “Since my initial posts, groups of people have been diagnosed this week with COVID who went to Lynch’s last weekend.”

It’s a lesson for everyone to learn, Crisp said, ideally without having to get sick themselves.

“I think we were careless and we went out into a public place when we should not have. And we were not wearing masks. I think we had a whole ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality,” she said. “The state opens back up and said everybody was fine, so we took advantage of that.”

Lynch’s Irish Pub in Jacksonville, Fla., reopened on Tuesday morning after a $30,000 deep clean following many of its patrons and staff contracting the novel coronavirus.
Lynch’s Irish Pub in Jacksonville, Fla., reopened on Tuesday morning after a $30,000 deep clean following many of its patrons and staff contracting the novel coronavirus. Lynch's Irish Pub / Facebook

“We should be wearing masks. We should be social distancing,” Crisp said. “It was too soon to open everything back up.”

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Another woman who contracted COVID-19 that day, Kat Layton, said she hopes their situation helps raise awareness.

“We want to raise awareness and get ahead of it,” Layton told CNN. “We want to tell people it’s really not ready for what we thought it was ready for, it’s too soon.”

“Receiving the text messages that my friends were just boom, positive, boom, positive, boom, positive, back to back to back, it was overwhelming,” Dara Sweat, another COVID-19 patient from the day, added.

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Lynch’s, along with other local bars The Wreck Tiki Lounge and The Tavern, closed voluntarily after hearing the news. Keith Doherty, general manager of Lynch’s, said it was the “right thing to do,” per News4JAX.

“It literally spread like wildfire. So when I found out what had happened, I immediately closed the bar,” Doherty told the station, adding that he hired sanitation crews for a US$7,000 deep clean and that the entire shutdown cost him a total of $30,000.

The bar reopened on Tuesday morning with hand sanitizer in place and all employees required to wear face masks. All patrons will have their temperatures checked at the door moving forward.

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“We can’t guarantee that people are not going to get sick because of the nature of this virus, but we’re going to keep them on top of what we can do to prevent things,” he said.

Coronavirus outbreak: Beaches in Jacksonville, Fla., reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic
Coronavirus outbreak: Beaches in Jacksonville, Fla., reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic

Other Jacksonville pubs, like Mellow Mushroom and Graffiti Junktion, also closed for deep cleaning following the news.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

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