“We went above and beyond,” he said. “What are you supposed to do different from what we did?”
In recent weeks, as states began reopening public life in phases, some people celebrated their first post-coronavirus haircuts and got long-delayed dental cleanings. Neighborhood bars, back in business, seemed to have a special allure.
“I cringe to see people flocking back into bars, but I get it,” said the novelist and journalist J.R. Moehringer, whose memoir, “The Tender Bar,” chronicles a boyhood among tavern regulars. “It’s an incredibly lonely moment in American history,” he said. “When they let us out of our houses, some of us go for a hike, and others of us go for a beer.”
That beer can pose unique risks. Bars are often smaller and narrower than restaurants, with fewer windows, weaker ventilation systems and less space to squeeze by another person. Pounding music forces people to shout into one another’s faces, spraying more viral particles into the air.
Unlike restaurants where small groups stay at their own tables, bar patrons often linger and mix with one another for hours as drinks dull their caution, including about masks and social distancing. Even the conversations that animate so many evenings at bars — the laughs, the boasts, the stories and jokes — can release 10 times as many particles as a cough, experts say.
“The combination of all the factors — the age, alcohol, time of day, all those things come together to make it hard for even the most conscientious bar manager,” said Kris Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division at Minnesota’s Department of Health.
Many of the people being infected at bars and clubs are in their 20s, a group that is more likely to have milder cases of Covid-19. Health experts warn that young people with mild symptoms or none at all still pose a serious threat to older family members or other vulnerable people.
In the hot spot traced to Harper’s in East Lansing, contact tracing has shown that the young adults who were infected spread the virus to people from 16 to 63 years old, health officials said. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York cited the Harper’s cluster as a reason to re-examine the city’s indoor dining reopening rules for restaurants. Harper’s has been shut down until it can provide a plan to address its failures to enforce mask wearing and social distancing, said Linda Vail, an Ingham County health officer.