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Pandemic Resurgence Slaps Retailers, Restaurants With Restrictions, Closures

This time of year would usually see a ramping up of foot traffic to physical retail stores and restaurants as the holiday season bears down. Instead, businesses are being pushed back to some of the restrictions of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as COVID-19 infection rates and deaths spike nationwide.

Empty streets and empty commercial buildings are wreaking havoc on real estate companies.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday that the state is slamming the “emergency brake” on reopening and is now requiring nonessential indoor businesses, including a lot of retail, to close in most counties, the Washington Post reports.

The governors of New Mexico, Oregon and Washington state announced the shutdown of indoor dining and other services in their states on Friday. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made a similar move on Sunday. Even North Dakota, which has been reluctant to restrict retail or restaurant trade, has put a limit on indoor dining of 50% capacity.

Like last spring, one main impact will be the closure of indoor dining at restaurants and bars. In Washington, for instance, the reinstalled restrictions mean that indoor dining has been halted, and while outdoor dining and to-go service are permitted, table sizes will be limited to five for outdoor dining, reports.

In-store retail in Washington will be limited to 25% indoor occupancy and seating areas will be closed, including food court indoor seating, similar to restrictions put in place in the spring and later relaxed.

Beginning on Saturday, the nation's largest retailer, Walmart, began limiting the number of customers allowed in its stores, with a goal of not exceeding five people per 1K SF. Walmart has had those limits in places since April, but had stopped tracking the number of people coming in, NBC reports.

Grocery stores are also clamping down on the amount of toilet paper and other paper goods that customers may buy, just as they did in March and April as U.S. consumers panic-bought such items and caused shortages. Chains limiting paper good sales include Kroger, Publix Super Markets, Giant Food and Wegmans. 

The impact on retail comes as the United States suffers a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide. There are now more than 1 million new cases a week, straining hospitals to their capacity in some areas, and almost 250,000 Americans have died from the disease. 

Though the development of vaccines to combat the outbreak has seen recent promising developments, inoculating the population will take time and a concerted national effort that will certainly take many months.