Shopping malls in Nassau County have been given the all-clear to open. For the time being, though, shopping will be slightly different than in pre-COVID days.
A spokesperson for Nassau County said all malls in the county will be reopened within the week. All indoor facilities have installed air filtration systems that were required by state rules before reopening, County Executive Laura Curran said.
On the North Shore, the Americana Manhasset and Wheatley Plaza malls are open, with each store deciding whether to allow in-store shopping, according to the owner, Castagna Realty.
Curran held a news conference at Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City Friday morning to commemorate the reopening of New York state’s malls as part of phase four of the reopening process following the coronavirus pandemic.
The scene at Roosevelt Field, however, was different from what it had been before the mall was forced to shut down in March. Hand sanitizer dispensers are set up along with signs reminding patrons to stay six feet apart. Much like the process that has been undertaken by grocery stores, there are arrows on the floor directing customers to remain on a one-way path.
The malls will be limited to 50% capacity for the time being. At Roosevelt Field, security guards will enforce physical distancing and make sure all employees and patrons wear a mask when inside. The reopening will only apply to retail stores for now.
Curran said restaurants on the mall’s edge will be able to continue outdoor seating, and the food court was available for take-out.
A spokesperson for the two Castagna malls said that “just about all” stores in the malls were open as of Tuesday. The stores that are open are following occupancy requirements for their spaces.
Castagna’s properties are outdoor malls where customers are only indoors when they’re inside the retail stores. A Castagna spokesperson said there are signs around the areas asking patrons to wear masks and maintain six feet of distance. The spokesperson did not elaborate on how that will be enforced or what the penalty for violating regulations is.
“I think in Nassau County we are proving that we can reopen while decreasing the infection rate and decreasing the hospitalization rate,” Curran said Friday. “I expect that we could be a national model because we are using common sense.”
Curran said that malls generate a significant amount of sales tax revenue for the county. Roosevelt Field alone generates around $88 million of such revenue per year. In Nassau County, 40% of all county revenue comes from sales taxes.
Curran said the economic toll that the pandemic has brought on the county is “devastating.” She said in the last four months, sales tax in the county has dropped by 30%, and job losses were being felt as well. Roosevelt Field employs around 4,000 people. She said that business owners she has heard from have safety as a top priority so as to restore consumer confidence in coming out to spend.
Curran said while there will be enforcement of the restrictions within the newly reopened businesses and the county will monitor enforcement, she is also relying on residents to “continue to use common sense.”
“A combination of vigilance and common sense will allow us to reopen safely,” Curran said.
Curran said that as of Friday the county had 45 COVID-19 hospitalizations, six patients in the intensive care unit and one on a ventilator, less than in previous weeks.