Columbia Center reopens after 3 1/2-month closure

Columbia Center mall has reopened with enhanced safety protocols after being closed for three-and-a-half months to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Kennewick mall, which shut its doors March 19, reopened July 7, four days after Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Benton and Franklin counties could move into a modified Phase 1 of the state’s Safe Start plan. Inslee said the move was an effort to help keep people closer to home so they avoid transmitting Covid-19 across county lines.

Benton and Franklin counties have some of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the state.

The modified Phase 1 allows in-store retail at 15% indoor capacity with indoor activities limited to 30 minutes.

As part of the reopening process, Columbia Center is touting its new Covid-19 exposure control policy, developed in conjunction with a team of experts in the fields of epidemiology and environmental health and safety.

The measures have been communicated to all tenants, who are expected to adhere to them in their tenant spaces, according to mall officials. Drinking fountains and the kids’ play area will be closed.

“The health, safety and well-being of the community we serve will always be our highest priority, and we have developed a thorough and detailed set of protocols highlighting the exceptional measures we’ve implemented for shoppers, retailers and employees as we reopen,” said Barbara Johnson, general manager at Columbia Center, in a news release.

“We also recognize that individuals and families in our community are suffering significant hardship as a result of both Covid-19 and the economic shutdown, and we believe that reopening our property will not only help people get back to work during these challenging times, but also enable us to use our property to further support charitable initiatives.”

Steps the mall is taking to protect shoppers and employees:

  • Enhanced sanitization and disinfecting using the Centers for Disease Control-approved products, with an emphasis on high-traffic locations such as dining areas, restrooms, escalators, stairs, directories, trash bins and door knobs.
  • Shopper safeguards that include making available protective masks, sanitizing wipes and temperature testing at entrances or property offices, as well encouraging previsit health screenings to ensure shoppers stay home if they have exhibited Covid-19 or flu-like symptoms within 72 hours.  
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be deployed throughout the property.
  • Signage promoting CDC guidelines for maintaining personal hygiene.
  • Pre-emptive employee health screening to ensure that employees do not arrive at work within 72 hours of exhibiting Covid-19 or flu-like symptoms. 
  • Employee safety protections including implementing the CDC’s Covid-19 frequent hand-washing protocols, and offering personal protective equipment in addition to other CDC recommended practices.
  • Promotion and enforcement of social distancing practices, including occupancy limitations, furniture and restroom spacing, closure of play areas and strollers, as well as coordinated traffic flow with traffic signage and distance markers.

Reopening provides a much-needed economic boost to the local community impacted by COVID-19, according to a news release from the mall, which also stated it serves as an economic engine for the local community, providing more than 1,500 jobs and contributing $15.7 million of sales tax and $830,000 in property tax revenue to the state.

“Our property is an integral part of our community not only in terms of shopping, dining and entertainment, but also job creation, small business growth and community support. We look forward to once again serving the needs of our community, and doing so in a safe and responsible manner,” Johnson said. 

To read Columbia Center’s COVID-19 policy, go to https://healthsafetysimon.splashthat.com.

In addition to reopening, Columbia Center has joined a national initiative to host food banks, clothing donations, Covid-19 mobile testing and blood drives as part of an outreach to 1,300 health providers, government agencies and nonprofits.

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