After about two months of coronavirus prevention measures ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf, retail stores are preparing to reopen to the public.

Boscov’s department store is set to reopen its Galleria Drive location Saturday, company Chairman and CEO Jim Boscov said.

“We made a lot of changes to accommodate people, to make sure they feel safe and comfortable,” Boscov said. “We are closing dressing rooms for the time being. And all returned items will go to the courtesy desk, and be held for several days,” he said.

Boscov said the store’s protocol will look much like what shoppers have been accustomed to at grocery stores: signage throughout the store reminding shoppers to be social distancing, masks worn by workers and shoppers, and plexiglass shields at registers.

In addition, he said there will be plenty of hand sanitizer throughout the store.

Boscov’s reopened three stores so far, in Pennsylvania and Ohio. On Saturday, Boscov’s reopens three more in Butler, Altoona and Johnstown, he said.

“Everybody in stores we’ve opened have been 100% compliant with wearing masks,” he said. “The worst thing that could happen is a resurgence of virus and we’d have to close again.”

With the numbers of new COVID-19 cases flattening in Cambria and surrounding counties, Wolf is moving the region from the highly restrictive red phase to the cautionary yellow phase in his plan to reopen Pennsylvania.

That transition from red to yellow, effective Friday for Cambria, means most types of businesses that have been closed for the past two months can reopen.

At Boscov’s, a cleaning service is deep cleaning in preparation for the store’s reopening.

“Our own people will also be doing intensified cleaning on high-touch areas – carts, handles – all things will be disinfected on a regular basis,” Boscov said.

Since Wolf announced last week that Cambria County businesses can begin reopening in the yellow phase, Ben Weaver, co-owner of the restoration service Servpro in Ebensburg, said calls for precautionary cleaning haven’t increased.

“We’ve been in a fortunate area with low cases of COVID-19,” he said.

Servpro uses a machine that fogs an area with a chemical with molecules that atomize when sprayed, suspend in the air and covers a surface area where it dwells for 10 to 15 minutes before its considered a clean surface.

“Businesses reopening may be scared. They don’t know what to do. They can call us, even just talk to us about products they can use. If you don’t have money to pay us, I understand – businesses haven’t been open for two months. They are strapped,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has online resources for chemicals to use to clean and sanitize, he said.

For businesses that have been closed since mid-March, there is little chance that the coronavirus has survived on a surface, Weaver said.

“The virus can’t live that long on the surface. Now, if there were people in there occupying the space to some level, you just don’t know,” he said. “That’s the scary thing about this virus. People can be asymptomatic.”

Residential cleaning and janitorial service company Colony Cleaning has been around for 42 years, through all kinds of situations including the 1977 Johnstown flood.

The disaster caused by COVID-19 is another, much different dilemma to add to the history books, owner Andy Fedore said.

“The flood was a catastrophe you could clean up. But with this one, you are helpless,” Fedore said of the microscopic COVID-19 coronavirus.

Fedore has been called by a few more business clients – car dealerships and professional office building managers – to schedule routine cleanings as they prepare to reopen Friday.

“We’ll be sanitizing all surfaces with a new awareness of the stopping the spread of the virus,” Fedore said.

Fedore said he is also bringing back all of its employees and reopening business to regular residential clients who compose a majority of his business.

“We are anxious to get back to as much of our old routine as possible,” Fedore said. “I am optimistic about getting the economy rolling again.”

Russ O'Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.

 

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