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COVID-19

Running a mall, in a time of social distancing

Kai Ryssdal and Bennett Purser Mar 13, 2020
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People walk through a Manhattan shopping mall on Jan. 30, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
COVID-19

Running a mall, in a time of social distancing

Kai Ryssdal and Bennett Purser Mar 13, 2020
People walk through a Manhattan shopping mall on Jan. 30, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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As more officials urge the public to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic — avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance from others when possible — what does that mean for malls and shopping centers?

For years, getting customers in the door has been challenging for many malls, even without a health crisis. Alana Ferko manages the Butte Plaza Mall in Butte, Montana. She spoke with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about how she’s feeling about the latest events surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. While there are no confirmed cases yet of the virus in the state, the governor has declared a state of emergency as a precaution.

Ferko recently grappled with cancelling an upcoming concert at the mall with a traveling band, part of the town’s St. Patrick’s day celebration.

“We were in the midst of canceling their performance here, because I just couldn’t put the public at risk,” Ferko said. “But they themselves, god bless them, they canceled their trip to Butte.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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