PUYALLUP, Wash. — Phase 2 of Governor Jay Inslee's Safe Start plan means large shopping malls can reopen at limited capacity with specific criteria.
Pierce County just got the go-ahead to move into Phase 2, and Puyallup's South Hill Mall was one of the first to get their doors open on Saturday. Mall management said even they were surprised to see shoppers waiting in the parking lot before opening time.
Only about 15-20% of the shops and food stands inside were able to get staff and supplies in time to open. There was a steady stream of shoppers, including a long line outside the Old Navy, which limited the number of people inside the store to stay in-line with the county guidelines.
The mall spaced tables at the food court further apart and added plexiglass at food stands. They’re going to add hand-sanitizers around the building and have dramatically increased the amount of cleaning.
Things were different but customers said it felt good to be back at the mall after months of quarantine.
“It's strange but everyone's pretty excited to be out,” Lorrertta Vandi said.
Face masks are required by the county but it's not enforced.
Stores are expected to maintain the 30% capacity limit on customers. Some store owners said it just felt good to be open.
"We were wondering what the crowd would be like, I'll be glad when everyone starts to open up,” Paul Passmore explained.
The mall said the hand sanitizing stations they’ve ordered are still a few weeks out because it’s so hard to get supplies right now. KING 5 asked about the pressure of making sure they keep things clean so the area doesn’t experience another spike in cases and force businesses to close again.
“I wouldn't say that there's pressure but I would say we're definitely making sure everyone knows we're putting their safety and their health and we're making that a paramount part of our daily operations,” General Manager Justin Hunt said.
The mall expects more stores to open soon as staff is rehired and inventory arrives but even with only a few open, people seemed to find stuff to buy.
Although in many ways it wasn't really about shopping.
“I think there's a level of socializing that people want to do. They've been cooped up for months and they want to come out and see each other,” Hunt explained.