Poloncarz warns holiday shopping season will be "different than prior years"

Posted at 6:53 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-26 23:36:13-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — With Black Friday and the holiday shopping season around the corner, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz warns that big box retailers could be shut down if they do not meet capacity requirements or uphold safe social distancing protocols.

"I would rather shut down their doors and cost some national retailer thousands of dollars of profits they would have had that day, than have hundreds and hundreds or thousands of people potentially infected because they went crazy at a Walmart or a Target or a Best Buy," Poloncarz said during a news conference Thursday.

“People have to exercise diligence, you know. The mask, the social distancing – it works if you do it," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a conference call in early November when asked about Black Friday shopping.

Poloncarz says health inspectors will be surveying retail establishments to make sure they are following the safety guidelines, and that his administration is not averse to shutting them down.

"I don't really care if I get a call from a lawyer out of Los Angeles for one of these national companies saying you can't do that," said Poloncarz."We can."

7 Eyewitness News has received multiple questions from viewers about why malls and retailers are allowed to stay open in the New York State-mandated Orange Zone, but hair salons and fitness centers are not.

When pressed on this, Poloncarz said the CDC and State Department of Health have identified personal care services and gyms as high risk areas for COVID-19 transmission because they are businesses where there is direct contact with clients or heavy breathing.

However, Poloncarz notes that if the infection rate in Erie County continues to rise, the area could be headed towards the Red Zone before Black Friday, which would force retailers to terminate in-store shopping and rely on curbside pickup only.

"I feel bad, I feel bad for so many people who will be out of work," said Poloncarz.

Both the Fashion Outlets and the Walden Galleria will be closed on Thanksgiving, but reopen early Black Friday morning. 7 Eyewitness News asked both retailers to comment on plans to keep shoppers safe, but have not heard back.