Black Friday: A new danger amid COVID-19

Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping events of the year. In 2020, it comes at the worst possible time. COVID-19 rates are rising around the country at an alarming rate, and USA Today highlighted the state of the country as the virus continues to soar with 100,000 new cases per day. So, what does this mean for holiday shoppers?

Angel Huggins, administrative assistant at Flagstaff Mall, said the mall plans on moving forward as scheduled. Since reopening May 15, it has been implementing many new regulations for staff and shoppers. 

“Since we have opened back up, we have increased our touch point cleaning throughout the common areas of the mall, including the food court and the children’s play area,” Huggins said. “We are also requiring face masks to be worn inside. Not only that, but we have discouraged loitering to reduce the amount of shoppers we have at a time.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, decreasing the number of people in an area is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and social distancing is the best proven practice to protect one another from infection. 

Shopper CJ Tompkins said he is not worried about shopping this holiday season. From his experience, he said he has felt very comfortable shopping at the mall.

“The staff has been doing a fantastic job keeping everyone safe,” Tompkins said. “I see them cleaning and disinfecting surfaces all over the mall, and they are also very strict about the mask mandate.”

Many stores have decided to begin Black Friday sales early this holiday season. Walmart has recently changed store hours to better accommodate shoppers during the large flux leading up to Christmas and many other winter holidays. However, these hours vary depending on the store. According to Walmart’s website, it has also begun to slowly implement Black Friday prices throughout November. In this way, everyone can access the deals.

The Flagstaff Mall began putting these safety measures in place upon its reopening. Its regulations will remain throughout the holiday season. 

“Our intention is to make everyone feel safe,” Huggins said. “We hope the hand sanitizing stations around the mall, the signage and the increased presence of security and housekeeping will help our shoppers feel that this is a safe place to shop and to bring their families.”

With many stores to manage within the mall, it is a grand task to keep everyone safe and maintain an orderly shopping experience.

“There are many markings throughout the mall directing shoppers to keep distance,” Tompkins said. “There are also a number of hand sanitizer stations I used. This definitely helped with the anxiety that goes along with being out in public, especially in crowds.” 

Senior and Home Depot employee Brianna Junior said she feels safe working at the home improvement store this year. She said Home Depot has done a great job creating a safe shopping experience. The store only allows a limited number of shoppers inside at a time to guarantee everyone can shop while social distancing, therefore lowering the probability of infection. 

“I have never felt unsafe at work. Of course, we have the anti-maskers as does everyone else,” Junior said. “These situations are handled in the most professional manner possible and we take this rule very seriously. The City of Flagstaff has a mask mandate in place, and we adhere to that.”

Home Depot has already begun offering many Black Friday deals such as a 40%-off sale on select appliances, discounted prices on power tools and lawn and garden supplies, to name a few. It has done this for the same reason as Walmart — to lower the number of holiday shoppers in its stores at one time. This allows for better social distancing and gives all shoppers the opportunity and time to get the products they desire at a discounted price.

This holiday season will be something new to all shoppers. Junior said the best thing anyone can do is to simply follow the rules of the stores while shopping. They are in place for a very specific reason: to keep everyone safe. 

“We understand that these challenging and unpredictable times have greatly increased the need to shop online,” Huggins said. “We want to remind everyone to please shop local and support business in our community when you can. They need our support now more than ever. Let’s take care of them like they have taken care of us.”

Tompkins also said it is more important than ever to support the local community. This Black Friday is going to be much different from the past because new rules and regulations have made shopping more unorthodox. Many businesses in town count on local shoppers for income. With the spike in online shopping this season, it is going to make it difficult for many businesses. At the same time, it has also made shopping safer for those who feel comfortable enough to go into stores.