Black Friday will be different for shoppers amid COVID-19 restrictions

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The Black Friday experience will be different for shoppers around the country this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That is also true at malls and stores across the New York area, all of which have COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Black Friday will be a one-day-only event, and when shoppers return to the malls for the holiday shopping season, they will be met with social distancing restrictions and lots of hand sanitizer.

The traditional start of the holiday shopping system had expanded to Thanksgiving evening in recent years, but the pandemic forced most retailers to cede Thanksgiving back to families and open their stores early Friday.

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Nobody knows how many people will physically go to the malls, but based on early shopping numbers, there are indications that shoppers will be out and about despite the threat.

Malls like Queens Center in Elmhurst are getting ready, with decals on the floor, store capacity restrictions, and hand sanitization stations that have been set up since malls reopened September 9 at 50% occupancy. It has also installed a hospital-grade air filtration in their high-quality HVAC system.

The mall also offers pandemic amenities like curbside pickup, in-store pickup, and dining takeout.

"We are confident we will be able to present the shopping center safely to our customers and hope they respond," said Steve DeClara, the mall's senior property manager.

There is a plan in place to limit crowding, if that occurs.

"We have people at every entrance making sure people are wearing masks, and we have a supply of masks we give out to people," DeClara said. "I think if there is any indoor location that is better prepared than a shopping center, I'd be very surprised."

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And the Queens Center Mall does have a Santa Claus, who is masked and will be separated from children.

Queens Center will open at 6 a.m. on Friday, with extended hours until 10 p.m. The mall will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

CLICK HERE for a full list of precautions in place at Queens Center and other Macerich properties.

If you do decide to shop in-person, the mall is asking guests to maintain six feet of social distancing and to be mindful of the amount of space between themselves and other guests on escalators and elevators, and avoid queueing in front of busy stores.

One thing that won't be open is the food court. However, curbside pickup is available for select retailers and restaurants.

Masks are required except for individuals with underlying health conditions and those age 2 and younger.

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