Shoppers returned to some Long Island malls this weekend. (Photo by Mira Lerner)

Indoor malls on Long Island began reopening this weekend in the latest sign of the region emerging from the coronavirus shutdown. 

In order to reopen, malls must follow new safety procedures to ensure the wellbeing of customers and employees. Officials hoped that the return of malls would help ease the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Here on Long Island and in many parts of our state and country malls are a real economic anchor,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Friday. “The financial toll on our local economy has been devastating.” Although in some areas of the nation COVID-19 cases are rising, causing a roll back of reopenings, the rate of new cases on LI continues to decline, ensuring Nassau and Suffolk counties reached the fourth and final phase of reopening this week. 

“I expect that we could be a national model.” Curran said. 

Safety measures enacted to ensure malls could reopen include improved air filtration systems that can clean the air of COVID-19 and other contaminants, as required by New York State. Malls will also be limiting capacity to 50 percent, closing high-risk common areas, regularly testing employees, and requiring face masks to be worn by employees and customers. They will have one-way aisles and walkways, and new cleaning protocols with focus on high touch areas as well.

“I know that Simon Properties along with other mall operators take safety very very seriously,” Curran said. “They have worked hard to make sure both their customers and employees can come back to the mall minimizing the risk.”

Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, and Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington, all owned by Simon Properties, are among the malls that reopened Friday.

“The health, safety and well-being of those we serve will always be our highest priority, and we have developed a thorough and detailed set of protocols highlighting the exceptional measures we’ve implemented to safeguard shoppers, retailers and employees as we reopen,” said John Rulli, President of Simon.

Their dedication to safety motivated them to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 exposure control policy with the help of a team of leading experts in epidemiology and environmental health and safety.

“Reopening provides a much-needed economic boost to the local communities impacted by COVID-19.” said Rulli. “The properties are important economic engines for their local communities.”

Simon-owned malls alone provide more than 9,800 jobs and contribute $148.3 million of sales tax and $50.2 million in property tax revenue to the state. The tax revenue is used to fund education, infrastructure, health, and safety services. 

Many mall-goers were happy about the malls reopening. 

“I’m excited to be back,” said Smith Haven Mall shopper Grace Cherry. 

Store owners are also looking forward to it. 

“It’s good to be back to something like normal,” said Elizabeth Torres, owner of I Heart Mac & Cheese, a new addition to the mall that will be opening in two weeks. “As long as everyone wears their masks and follows the protocol, we’re very excited to be opening our new store and getting the word out.”

-With Dana Cheiuh

Related Story: Filters May Be Key To Reopening Malls, Which Were Bumped From Phase 4

Related Story: Long Island Malls Cleared To Reopen on Friday, With Air Filters

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