Woodburn Outlets plans smaller Black Friday amid pandemic
The recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Oregon and a subsequent executive order to address the pandemic will affect some businesses much more than others.
The restrictions, which went into effect on Nov. 18, come just in time to coincide with the traditional holiday seasonal kickoff events, such as Black Friday.
Liz Merah, a spokeswoman from Gov. Kate Brown's office, noted that Executive Order 20-65 addresses the following in detail: Limiting at-home and social gatherings, as well as faith institutions; limiting the maximum capacity for grocery stores, pharmacies and retail stores; restricting food and drink establishments to take-out only; requiring workplaces to mandate work-from-home as much as possible; and closing certain businesses, including gyms, museums, zoos, and indoor recreation facilities.
"I know Oregonians have made tremendous sacrifices throughout this pandemic and that these new, temporary restrictions may seem daunting," Brown said. "But, we are at a breaking point. If we don't take further action, we risk continued alarming spikes in infections and hospitalizations, and we risk the lives of our neighbors and loved ones."
Patronage at businesses such as the Woodburn Premium Outlets may remain fairly robust through the holiday, although the mall's website indicates that it will remain closed throughout Thanksgiving Day and open several hours early, at 6 a.m., on Black Friday. Recent years had seen the mall open late on Thanksgiving or around midnight heading into Friday.
"In these challenging times, we made the decision that we will not open on Thanksgiving Day, instead allowing our associates to spend the holiday with their loved ones," said David Simon, chairman, CEO and president of Simon, the real estate investment trust that owns the Woodburn outlet.
Merah told KGW on Nov. 17 that the goal of the freeze is to increase social distancing by limiting gatherings and reducing the number and frequency of public interactions.
"Shopping malls differ from restaurants in terms of the ebb and flow of customer traffic and the ability to keep face coverings on for the entire duration of a shopping trip," Merah said.
Retail establishments are still required to adhere to health and safety guidelines such as safe distancing, face coverings and hand sanitizing.
Masked and mall bound
Around midday on Nov. 18, the day the statewide pandemic restrictions went into effect, Woodburn Premium Outlets seemed comparably quiet in terms of vehicles and foot traffic, posing no complications to the safe distancing requirement — although one store, the Nike outlet, did have a line of more than two dozen shoppers stretched outside at marked six-foot intervals.
At each entry into the vast complex were stand-alone reader boards posting "Healthy Shopper Guidelines."
The sign noted: "Your health and safety is our priority. Follow these guidelines to protect yourself and others," followed by an itemized list stressing distancing, personal protective equipment, sanitation and staying home if you aren't feeling well.
"Woodburn Premium Outlets is following all CDC guidelines, as well as direction from the state and local governments," an outlet publicist, Hayden Rome, noted in an email.
Hand sanitizer was also available at each entry and at the entrance of many stores, and some stores even had their own signs stressing pandemic-era safety precautions.
The Woodburn outlet is unique from other malls in that the breezeways throughout the vast complex are open-air, providing ample room to move throughout and between individual stores.
Scenarios that create the most hazardous environments for spreading the virus are primarily fully indoors, such as indoor recreation facilities and dine-in eateries, where it is more difficult to curb human contact.
Statewide virus spikes reported by the Oregon Health Authority in mid-November saw the number of positive and presumptive cases surpass 1,000 several times, including 1,099 on Nov. 18; 1,097 on Nov. 14; 1,076 on Nov. 13; and 1,122 on Nov. 12. Marion County has continued to register among the higher per capita rates statewide.
Health officials have tracked a number of spreading incidents to social gatherings with multiple people.
Compliance is crucial
A governor's office press release stated that all of the freeze measures are enforceable by law and cover both individuals and businesses. That same day an Oregon State Police media release affirmed that OSP, the Oregon State Sheriff's Association and the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police all support the two-week coronavirus freeze.
"Oregonians have a strong tradition of unifying to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities," the OSP release read, urging a collective compliance. "As your Oregon law enforcement professionals, our primary objective throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been to take an education first approach and to seek voluntary compliance with each executive order. We recognize the inconvenience the pandemic and subsequent restrictions have caused all of us. We also know that the risk to our most vulnerable populations is extremely high at this time and we urge everyone to follow these restrictions in order to protect them.
"After all, we are all in this together."
The governor also urged voluntary compliance.
"I expect local law enforcement to continue to use an education first approach, but Oregonians need to understand that these rules are enforceable under law," Brown said. "A large majority of Oregonians continue to do the right thing to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors. However, when Oregonians don't take COVID-19 seriously, and don't take steps to reduce the spread of the disease, they put all of us at risk.
"We need all Oregonians to use common sense, make smart choices and take seriously their individual responsibilities during a public health emergency."
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