Update: Warwick Mall Focused on Keeping Shoppers Safe After Overcrowding Concerns
UPDATE: Following an ABC6 report Tuesday highlighting overcrowding concerns at Warwick Mall, the mall’s General Manager addressed the changes being made in light of this on Wednesday. “The building has 24/7 security. All our entrances have security. We are counting the number of people coming in and out of the building, so I think we are being very diligent with it all,” Mall General Manager Domenic Schiavone said. He says this was a wake up call and they’re being extra vigilant to keep workers and shoppers safe. Currently, mall capacity is capped at 7,000 people. Each store is limited in the number of people allowed inside.
WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE): Pictures are circulating on social media, showing Warwick Mall packed with people doing their holiday shopping over the weekend.
The General Manager, Domenic Schiavone, said the mall is allowed to have 7,000 people inside at a time based on the square footage of the space
Schiavone said they have taken measures to ensure capacity limits are maintained. For example, guards at the entrances have been counting how many shoppers walk inside.
However, some small business owners say it’s not fair that they’re forced to shut down during the state’s two-week pause while the mall looks packed.
“I was enraged, to be honest with you,” Robert Foster, the owner of RBF Fitness in Warwick said.
Foster has been forced to close down his gym a second time during the pause.
“They are allowed to have 7,000 people, but I can’t have 10 people in here training where we can control the cleaning and ventilation,” Foster said.
Schiavone said the pictures of the mall are misleading and misrepresent operations.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, we have had a zero-tolerance policy requiring face coverings,” Schiavone said. “We have also implemented cleaning and sanitation protocols.”
Foster said his fitness center has had these same protocols in place, which is why he believes small businesses are being singled out.
“They are trying to push us out is what it seems,” Foster said.
Foster said his fitness center was just starting to pick up steam again before they were forced to close.
“We are hanging on by a thread,” Foster said.
Joseph Wendelken with the Department of Health said there is evidence that gyms and fitness centers are sites of concern for COVID-19 transmission.
“We know that people breathe harder when they work out, which is how the virus spreads, especially in confined, indoor places with ventiliation that is less than ideal,” Wendelken said.
The Department of Business Regulations said they are aware of these photos.
A spokesperson sent us this statement regarding the crowding:
We have been in communication with the Warwick Mall as a result of reports over the past weekend. We are working with the mall to ensure they are closely monitoring capacity to prevent bottlenecks and crowding. Additionally, they are distributing masks and hand sanitizer to customers upon entrance.
As a reminder, big box and multi-tenant retailers have additional capacity restrictions and protocols in place, including more stringent capacity limits, the required completion of a post-Thanksgiving plan to keep customers safe during the holiday shopping season.