Aventura Mall, the nation’s ninth-biggest enclosed mall, finally opens today after two months of closure.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez declared this week the beginning of the yellow phase, which allows the opening of non-essential businesses throughout the county.”While we keep moving to a new normal, we will always continue to make safety and health the top priority,” said Mayor Gimenez in a press conference.
The yellow phase allows many non-essential businesses including malls, retail stores and restaurants to restart operation, but both employees and visitors must follow strict hygiene measures. Many other malls throughout the county and state have opened in the last few days, even as the numbers of deaths and infections continue to climb. J.C. Penney, one of Aventura’s anchor stores, declared bankruptcy last week, illustrating the challenges facing retailers throughout the facility and nation.
On its website, Aventura Mall declared the staff has rigorously cleaned and disinfected all areas and placed hand sanitizer stations throughout the facility. Both employees and visitors must use facial coverings, and there must be about six feet of distance between people to limit contagion.
We’ve missed you! 🤗
We will be reopening this Thursday, May 21 at 11 a.m. Our hours of operation will be Monday-Saturday from 11 am – 7 pm and Sunday from 12 pm – 6 pm. For more information, please visit https://t.co/HVr77aPvz0 pic.twitter.com/xnvrm6gMTu
— Aventura Mall (@AventuraMall) May 18, 2020
“We are taking all the precautions using masks and face shields, and we are required to wash our hands constantly,” said Larissa Moscoso, a 19-year-old employee of the local ice cream store “Paletas Morelia,” which will open Thursday at Aventura.
Moscoso, who has worked at the upscale popsicle store for almost two years, doesn’t expect things to return to normal soon. “I feel relieved coming back to work since I was ‘eating’ my savings,” she said. “However, I feel a little bit worried. I think it’s dumb in a certain way because there hasn’t been a decrease of cases in the county.”
Like other facilities such as Dolphin Mall, Aventura has taken measures to keep guests and employees safe by reducing opening hours. The mall will open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Meanwhile, most restaurants will open, but they will continue to offer delivery and pickup services on orders.
Some regular patrons, who have been shut out since the facility closed in mid-March, expressed concern because they live with relatives who are at risk. “I am scared, but I also think we should establish a new normal way of living,” said Karina Aserraf, 20-year-old Tufts University sophomore. She returned to Miami before the shutdown. “Maybe it’s too soon for the opening of the mall, but I also understand the need for the stores and employees to get back to work and to get their salaries.”
Aserraf, whose father has a health condition that makes him vulnerable, also mentioned that the opening of non-essential businesses might be problematic since schools are still closed, and many employees won’t have anywhere to leave their children when working.
“I think that all the measures taken are extremely necessary,” she said. “I would like for the mall to provide the purchase of hygiene products in case people are running low on them.”
Samantha Puterman, another 20-year-old student, who attends Boston University, also returned to Miami to be with her family during quarantine. She said, “I am afraid that by opening non-essential businesses we are going to throw away everything we have been doing for the past few months. However, I understand that life goes on and that we cannot live in fear for the rest of our lives.”
Mariana Wakszol, an architect who until the closure spent several days a week meeting friends or shopping at the mall, confessed her fear and insecurity about the reopening. “I would not go to the mall for now,” she said. “If they want people to go, the only way is to implement the new hygiene measures.”
“I am scared because I don’t see the curve flattened,” said Elizabeth Bacal, a 38-year-old Hallandale Beach resident woman who commented about how she has long enjoyed visiting the mall and having a good time either with her friends or alone. “Countries starting to open schools and shopping malls have a flatter curve. Hygiene measures are fine if everyone follows them, and that is difficult to observe. I think we should go step by step.”
The opening of Aventura Mall could signify life returning to normal in a meaningful sense. Since it is one of the biggest tourist attractions of the city, its opening might have serious consequences, including contributing to a second wave of the virus.
What is coming next is a new way of living in which citizens must adapt. Mayor Gimenez termed it: “I keep you safe, you keep me safe.”