BuzzFeed News has reporters around the world bringing you trustworthy stories about the impact of the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member.
A Florida woman and 15 of her friends have reportedly tested positive with the coronavirus after a night out at a bar in Jacksonville Beach.
“Welp, Florida opened back up & my ass should’ve stayed tf home this past weekend cause I just tested positive for the damn COVID,” she wrote on Facebook last week. “#IKnowBetter #MyFault #WearYourMasksPeople”
The woman, Erika Crisp, told local news station News4Jax that she and her friends have been “doing everything the right way,” being careful to socially distance and staying inside for months. The only common denominator between the group, she said, is one night out earlier this month after bars and restaurants began reopening in the state.
“And then the first night we go out, Murphy’s Law, I guess,” she told the station.
Crisp, 40, is a healthcare worker and said the group was not wearing masks, something she regrets.
“I think we were careless and we went out into a public place when we should not have,” she told the news station. “I think we had a whole ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality. The state opens back up and said everybody was fine, so we took advantage of that.”
The bar Crisp and her friends went to, Lynch’s Irish Pub, closed voluntarily last Friday for cleaning after learning one customer had tested positive. They also tested their employees, and seven workers tested positive as well.
“It literally spread like wildfire,” the bar’s general manager Keith Doherty, who is also a member of the Jacksonville Beach city council, told News4Jax. The bar reopened Tuesday morning, and Doherty said they plan to check customer and staff temperatures at the door. Other bars in the area closed Sunday after customers tested positive.
But Crisp wrote on Facebook that she thinks it was probably an asymptomatic person unknowingly spreading the virus. She also said that 20 other people she didn’t know who went to the bar have messaged her saying they have now also tested positive.
“It’s the common denominator from a bunch of strangers. And no, we did NOT bar hop. It was the ONLY bar my group of people went to & it was the only time I saw them,” she wrote.
Crisp also posted that she should’ve been more cautious, and that she loves the bar and doesn’t want to damage its reputation.
“I encourage everyone to be considerate of others. We’re not out to hurt anyone or damage an establishment’s reputation. We have no agenda or motive,” she wrote. “These are crap times so be kind.”
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Duval County Department of Health spokesperson Samantha Epstein said they are conducting “an extensive epidemiological investigation in conjunction with the CDC to identify individuals who may have had close contact with the virus,” as they do with all positive cases in the state.
She added that there is “no direct correlation between bars reopening and a rise in positive cases. We have not seen any outbreaks at local bars, other than that specific location in Jacksonville Beach.”
Neither Crisp nor Lynch’s Irish Pub responded to interview requests from BuzzFeed News. The county department of health also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Florida was one of the first states in the country to begin reopening, but cases have continued to rise. On Tuesday, the state reported a record-high 2,783 new cases of COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said that although much of the state is in Phase 2 of reopening, Miami is pausing the process because of concerns about the increased spread.
“Now is not a time to let your guard down, that’s the predominant message. If we continue on this trajectory we’re gonna be put in a situation where we’re gonna have to make tough choices,” he said, according to the local NBC station. “We’re not going backwards as of yet, but we’re kind of sounding the alarm.”