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Group of 12 friends test positive for coronavirus after 1st night out at Jacksonville bar

"We're not ready," one partygoer said. "I do regret going out that night."
/ Source: TODAY

A group of at least a dozen friends who went to a newly-reopened Florida bar to celebrate one of their birthdays say they all have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Kat Layton, one of the members of the group, told NBC affiliate WTLV that 12 of her 15 friends tested positive for COVID-19 after meeting up on June 6 at Lynch's Irish Pub in Jacksonville Beach.

"It's not ready. We're not ready," Layton said. "I do regret going out that night."

Another partygoer, health care worker Erika Crisp, told local station WJXT that 15 of her friends tested positive for COVID-19 and she hopes to raise awareness about the ongoing threat of the coronavirus. Some of them developed symptoms a few days after visiting the bar and got tested, prompting others who were in the group to get tested after hearing some of them had gotten COVID-19.

"This is a lesson for all of us," Crisp said. "We've all been stuck indoors for months being careful, social distancing, doing everything the right way, and then the first night we go out, Murphy's Law, I guess."

A group of 16 friends who gathered at Lynch's Irish Pub in Jacksonville, Florida, tested positive for coronavirus.
A group of 16 friends who gathered at Lynch's Irish Pub in Jacksonville, Florida, tested positive for coronavirus. NBC News

Crisp wrote on Facebook that strangers have also contacted her to say they tested positive from that night at Lynch's Irish Pub.

"So far I have personally been messaged by over 20 people I don’t even know who have now been tested positive that were there," she wrote. "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."

The gathering of friends came on the first weekend that bars were allowed to reopen in most counties in Florida, which has seen a surge in coronavirus cases.

"I kind of noticed this is a lot of people, a lot of people in close proximity like a dance floor kind of thing, which I was excited about," Layton said about the night at the bar. "I'm the walking (example of a) person that was just fighting this thing like 'Ah c'mon, it's not that serious,' and I got it."

The state reported 2,783 new cases on Tuesday, up from 1,270 on the day the friends met at the bar. Tuesday's total marked the third time in a week that Florida set a new daily record, and hospitalizations have also increased.

Seven employees from Lynch's Pub also tested positive, the bar's general manager told WJXT. The group of friends who gathered on June 6 are friends with some of the employees and told them they had tested positive for COVID-19, prompting all 49 of the bar's employees to get tested.

The pub was closed for a deep cleaning this past weekend before reopening on Tuesday. Four other bars in the area were also closed after the reports of positive cases.

Lynch's employees will now be wearing masks, there will be hand sanitizer stations in the bar, and customers will have their temperature checked at the door.

The group of friends are hoping that speaking out about getting COVID-19 will warn others who may not be taking proper precautions.

"Again, I should have known better," Crisp wrote on Facebook. "I should have been more cautious. But alas, it is what it is."

"I have to do my part in letting people know that it’s not about us," Layton said. "It’s not about how you feel always because you could be contracting the disease and giving it out without showing any symptoms.

"Trust me when I say that I miss it too, but if we’re not paying attention to what is actually going on and we’re just kind of opening things up, then we’re going to contract it and we’re going to kill people in our own community."