TAMPA, Fla. — Malls in the Tampa Bay area are slated to open in the coming weeks as part of a gradual reopening of the state's economy amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Westfield shopping centers announced they to reopen Friday, May 15, according to a news release. Operating hours will be adjusted, with locations open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The company stresses it will be implementing relevant Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health and safety protocols as part of the reopening.
"Westfield is excited to open our doors again to the Tampa community as we begin our initial recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic," said Patrick Madden, vice president of shopping center management in the release. “We are working closely with local officials and other relevant community groups to ensure a healthy, clean and safe environment for our customers, tenants and employees; and are committed to providing the best experience possible as business begins to operate at the center."
Some of the health and safety changes include increasing the frequency of cleaning, controlling the number of people inside and in lines and enforcing social distancing policies.
The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota plans to open at an earlier date: Wednesday, May 6, with it operating from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
It, too, says it will increase cleaning procedures and have extra signage to help people practice social distancing.
International Plaza and Bay Street in Tampa also plans to open at 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 6.
Simon Property Group announced its Tampa Bay-area malls will reopen Monday, May 4:
- Ellenton Premium Outlets
- Tampa Premium Outlets
- Tyrone Square
The malls' reopening comes as the country tries to find that delicate balance of kickstarting the economy and limiting the spread of coronavirus.
"I think of this as a tightrope act," said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University’s medical school. He told The New York Times mall operators should require temperature checks for customers.
"On the one side are all the medical issues and on the other are all the financial, economic and social issues. If one gets out of balance we fall."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' phase one plan to reopen the state starting Monday, May 4, allows retail stores statewide to operate at 25 percent of indoor capacity.
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