By Crystal Harrell
Riverside County has experienced a number of closures from different businesses due to the rising cases of COVID-19. Much to the excitement of eager retailers and shoppers, it was announced that indoor malls at 25 percent capacity, along with salons and barbershops, could resume operations under a new four-tier system unveiled last Friday by Governor Gavin Newsom.
These new guidelines are in place for California counties to move toward reopening and are designed to make the process more gradual than it was when businesses first started opening up back in May to prevent rising cases of coronavirus. Riverside County, along with most of California, is currently classified in the highest risk category of purple, meaning widespread coronavirus remains in the community.
The new color-coded framework is divided into Widespread, Substantial, Moderate and Minimal tiers, based on COVID-19 case rates and positivity rates. The Widespread purple tier is the most restrictive, consisting of more than seven daily new cases per 100,000 people in the county, while the Minimal yellow tier has the least stringent restrictions with less than one daily new case per 100,000 people. The in-between stages include Substantial (red) and Moderate (orange).
For approximately six weeks, exterior stores at the mall remained open, but had limited indoor operations. Westfield welcomed back their indoor retailers on Monday, August 31 with hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Westfield Palm Desert is not only located in the heart of the Coachella Valley, but we’re a central gathering space for our community,” said Westfield Marketing Director Franchesca Forrer.
The shopping center is taking precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of both staff and customers with new rules of operation. Employees with a fever or cold and flu-like symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, runny nose, or body aches are required to stay at home. Masks are also required for employees and customers while inside the shopping center. Common areas, particularly busy locations such as restrooms, seating, dining, and play areas will be regularly disinfected.
As for the design modifications of Westfield Palm Desert, there are more hand sanitizer stations in the common areas and several social distancing reminders, including the use of distancing markers and extra spaces between seating, that are posted throughout the center. Signage reminding shoppers and employees of safety precautions recommended by the CDC is also posted throughout the center.
“We are most excited to welcome back our community because it is so important to shop and dine locally. Everyone benefits when we support each other!” said Forrer.
Along with the reopening, Westfield has new events that will take place through the rest of the summer. Picnic on the Patio lasts until September 7, as a pop-up marketplace each weekend featuring Westfield pop-up shops, Flat Black Art Walk artisans and makers, al fresco dining with shaded areas and misting fans, a soothing massage station, a house DJ, and contests.
All seating and pop-up shops at Picnic on the Patio will be socially distanced and sanitization stations will be on hand as well, located in the Grand Entrance near Stuft Pizza. Now that Westfield is open again, the outdoor marketplace has shifted indoors.
Another popular new event is the El Toro Flicks state-of-the-art drive in movie experience. Situated at the third level parking deck under the stars, guests can experience El Tori’s giant screen showing family favorites all summer through November 1. Concessions are available for purchase, along with additional radio speakers for incredible sound quality.
“The drive in is enormously popular and sells out quickly. Reservations are a must and operators are taking requests for movies,” stated Forrer.
Tickets can be purchased on El Toro’s Facebook page. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the film begins at approximately 7:20 p.m. or at sunset. One car pass is per car, not per guest with a recommended total of 2-8 passengers. Radio rental is optional and is not required, for external use. Guests must wear a mask anytime outside their vehicle, including visiting the bathroom and concessions, and social distancing must be practiced at all times. Movies are rain or shine with no refunds unless specified.
To keep up-to-date with announcements and upcoming events, visit Westfield.com/palmdesert or follow the mall on Facebook or Instagram.