Holyoke mayor’s emergency order to shutter large retailers, mall

  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/17/2020 2:31:17 PM

HOLYOKE — Retailers at the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside became the latest to turn out the lights Tuesday, as businesses and institutions throughout the region close to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

In a statement, Mayor Alex Morse ordered the closure by 5 p.m. Tuesday of all retail operations with occupancy of 50 people or more, or that are connected by common structures classified as “covered malls.”

Morse’s emergency order said the city was taking “appropriate steps” to protect public health and well-being.

“Of particular concern is limiting the opportunities for indoor congregation of persons, which aids the spread of infection,” Morse stated.

The closure will apply only to public access to the establishments in those retail locations covered under the order. Staff and delivery access are still permitted for the time being.

Retail stores that are in indoor malls but have individual, public access to the outside can remain open as long as their listed occupancy is below the 50-person threshold. Access between those retail establishments and other shared ways must remain closed, however.

“Retail establishments that offer sales of grocery, pharmacy, medical supplies, pet food or supplies or take-out food goods, and that have direct public access to the exterior of the structure (i.e. not to indoor common ways) may remain open to the public,” the order reads.

The announcement came as many retailers are them selves closing up operations in response to the threat of COVID-19. Macy’s, which has a location inside the mall, already announced Tuesday that it would close all of its stores. Others, like Bloomingdale’s, have followed suit.

Morse said Tuesday, however, that most retailers have not been not opting to shut down voluntarily to benefit public health.

“It was important to make this decision given that businesses weren’t making these decisions on their own,” he said. “To the extent we can limit the spread of COVID-19 and incentivize social distancing, that decision is in line with public health interests.”

Morse said the Holyoke Mall is an area where thousands of people congregate every day, which is contrary to the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people not gather in large groups.

Pyramid Management Group, which runs the mall, did not answer questions when reached Tuesday afternoon, but referred the Gazette to a statement posted on the mall’s website.

In the statement, Pyramid said it had instructed employees to close the mall and for all applicable tenants to comply with the emergency order. It said the order excludes certain tenants like Target, which will remain open during its normal business hours, and Uno Pizzeria & Grill, which will be open for take-out only on March 17 and 18 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“Pyramid is closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation with respect to COVID-19 and will provide updates as they become available,” the statement says. “At this time, this closes only Holyoke Mall and no other Pyramid-owned and operated centers.”

In addition to the mall, the order is likely to affect other retail locations in the city. Morse mentioned the Kmart Plaza and stores in the Holyoke Mall Crossing, such as Barnes & Noble.

The decision will have a significant impact on those employed at the mall, which hosts nearly 150 establishments according to its website. Lisa Wray, the mall’s marketing director, said that around 3,000 people are employed there.

Wray said that people can call security at the mall to gain access to their post office box or if they have an emergency and need to see Holyoke Mall Dental.

Morse said that with every decision made locally, the city has tried to think about how it would impact people. At this time, though, he said limiting the spread of the virus is the most essential step to take.

Morse called on the state and federal governments to provide financial aid to workers affected by the virus, which has shuttered businesses across the country and has left many workers without a job. He urged the passage of guaranteed paid leave for every employee impacted, as well as money for small businesses. Any stimulus package should be focused on working people and small businesses, not large corporations, he said.

“It should be invested in making sure every working person in this country is made whole, if not more,” he said. “This reminds us who the government should work for and be there for.”

Morse and Michael Bloomberg, the acting city emergency management director, wrote in the emergency order shuttering large retailers that those businesses that could remain open should follow guidelines from the state Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on social distancing practices, and should take precautionary actions to limit the congregation of customers inside their stores.

The order will last throughout the city’s public health emergency declaration, or until otherwise terminated by the city.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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