INDIANAPOLIS -- Simon Property Group will not reopen its three Indianapolis malls this Saturday.
John Rulli, Simon Vice President of Malls and Chief Administrative Officer, said the company was left with "no choice" but to keep the malls closed after the City of Indianapolis extended its stay-at-home order to May 15 on Thursday.
Simon, the country's biggest owner of malls, had announced plans to open 49 of its properties across the U.S. in coming days. That will continue, except for the three in Indianapolis, home of Simon's headquarters.
Instead of Saturday, Simon will open seven Indiana Malls next Monday. Those include: Greenwood Park, Hamilton Town Center, College Mall in Bloomington and Tippecanoe Mall in Lafayette. But the Indianapolis malls will be closed until at least May 15.
The decision came hours after Marion County's top health official said she was "very concerned" with Simon's plans to reopen local malls this weekend.
“From the public health perspective we are very concerned about letting a large retail establishment be open when we’re still having greater than 100 new cases a day,” said Dr. Virginia Caine.
She said the move could “dramatically” increase the number of cases in the county and put other citizens at risk.
“It may undo all the good work we have put in place related to our shelter-in-place and stay-at-home philosophy,” Caine said.
But the extension of the Marion County stay-at-home order to May 15, made reopening the malls a moot point.
Rulli said Simon executives came away from a telephone meeting with city officials Friday afternoon "disappointed," calling it a "one-way conversation."
He said new safety procedures the company is implementing at its malls were reviewed and approved by experts in epidemiology and environmental health and safety.
Here are some of the new procedures:
- Employees, contractors and vendors will be required to screen themselves at home prior to coming to work. If they show signs of illness, they will have to stay home. Similar temperature testing and screenings will take place when arriving for work.
- Employees will wear face masks while at work and must frequently wash or sanitize their hands. They must stay at least six feet from fellow employees and shoppers whenever possible.
- Steps will be taken to encourage social distancing among shoppers, including restricting the number of people allowed in the mall if it becomes too crowded. Mall employees and security officers will remind shoppers about social distancing and not shopping in groups.
- Food court seating will be limited and spaced out. All play areas, stroller and valet stations and drinking fountains will be closed for now.
- Directional signage and floor decals will be used to encourage better traffic flow, including at entrances and throughout the common areas.
- In restrooms, every other sink and urinal will be taped off.
- Directional signs and dividers will be used to separate shoppers entering and leaving the malls, as well as people at the food courts.
- Each night, mall common areas will be thoroughly sanitized and each retailer is expected to do the same in their stores.
- Business hours will be 11 a.m.-7 p.m, Monday-Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
- Shoppers will be encouraged to take their temperature before coming to the mall. Shoppers are encouraged to wear masks or facial coverings while shopping and to frequently wash their hands at sanitizing stations located in the mall.