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Coronavirus Spikes Might Slam The Brakes On Space Reopening

To reopen or not to reopen? That is the question for governments, and companies occupying commercial space, in the face of a pandemic that won't quite go away.

Coronavirus Spikes Might Slam The Brakes On Space Reopening

The number of COVID-19 cases in certain parts of the country has risen in recent days, growing in more than 30 states, and leading to concern about whether the nascent return to office, retail and other commercial and public spaces will reverse itself.

On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that the state is pausing further reopenings, and ordered hospitals in the state's largest cities (Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin) to postpone elective procedures, as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients spiked to near 4,400 from only about 2,800 a week earlier.

In New York on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced  that the state is delaying the reopening of shopping malls, movie theaters and gyms. In some parts of the state, those facilities were going to reopen Friday.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered everyone to wear face masks in public starting Friday, including people inside casinos, NPR reports. Earlier this week, Las Vegas casino workers called on the state to require casino customers to wear masks, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Other states, including Louisiana, Kansas and North Carolina, have paused their reopenings or at least, like Florida, paused the next phase of reopening, CNBC reports.

Private companies are also moving cautiously toward reopening, sometimes also reversing course.

Disney announced on Thursday that Disneyland will not be reopening on July 17 as planned, though it still plans to reopen Disney World in Florida, CBS reports. In New York, offices can now open, but some law firms are holding back as they still finalize safety arrangements, the New York Law Journal reports.

In Philadelphia, most of the 9,000 Comcast workers at its headquarters won’t return until after the end of September, according to an internal email reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Also in Philly, roughly 4,500 Independence Blue Cross employees will continue to work from home, and Thomas Jefferson University is encouraging 7,000 employees to stay at home for now. 

Other commercial property observers are more sanguine about demand for commercial space in the immediate post-pandemic environment. 

“Today we’re leasing greater amounts of space to people than they had before,” Brookfield Asset Management CEO Bruce Flatt said during a Bloomberg Invest Global virtual conference on Wednesday. “They want to accommodate their people and get them back quickly."

A survey of senior executives by CNBC found that many companies expect 50% of their employees or more to be back to their workplaces by September, though those questions were asked in May, when overall COVID-19 cases seemed to be on a downward trend.