Local group helping businesses to reopen, safely


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Despite positive cases still being reported across the CSRA, many places of business want to get back to their new normal. But as we reopen here and all over America, a group of experts came together to make sure the economy successfully comes back to keep people safe.

In the midst of the pandemic, businesses are reopening and that means you can somewhat freely shop at places, such as the Augusta Mall. But as they reopen their doors, we wanted to make sure that they are doing so safely to ensure the health of their employees and their customers.

NewsChannel 6 spoke with Philip Kent, External Affairs Director for The COVID Consortium, a local think tank providing help as places get going again.

“One things for sure is we don’t want this COVID pandemic to increase numbers,” he said.

The CSRA slowly reopens back up for business. People are already starting to shop again inside Augusta Mall and other stores nearby. But how do we know it’s safe to clock back in at those jobs or begin indulging in retail therapy? That’s why The COVID Consortium, a team of doctors, insurance and HR professionals and finance gurus, created the Certified COVID Tested Workplace program. Kent told us companies that seek their expertise can ensure they are creating a safe workplace environment when reopening. And he says it starts by taking one step.

He said some companies are grappling with, “Do I have COVID in the office or do I not? Testing is the sure way to know what you have going on in your business.”

Kent added testing should be done more than once and on a continual basis, such as once or twice a month depending on the budget. He also said companies need to still practice social distancing and have a written plan or protocol that addresses what will take place as people work and shop during this pandemic.

“Sanitizing, it has to be done. The social distancing, it has to be done. Depending on the business, the masks, the shield that is up between someone behind the register and the consumer. All of those things certainly need to be in place,” he said.

The Augusta Mall issued a statement on reopening day.

Following Governor Kemp’s Order announcing the reopening of certain retail stores, Augusta Mall will reopen on Tuesday, May 5. The mall will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. 

New measures have been implemented to help ensure the health and safety for all who enter the Mall, including hand-sanitizing stations, touch-free interactions, frequent and intense cleanings and social distancing directions. We are working diligently to provide a safe, clean environment where people feel comfortable shopping, dining and enjoying their time. 

The food court will reopen with adjusted seating to comply with the Order. Food court tenants are encouraged to continue carryout and takeout service. The following amenities will be unavailable until further notice:  valet services, play areas, stroller rentals, and mall-operated carousels.

For a more detailed list of all of our security measures and the most up-to-date list of open retailers, please visit our website at www.augustamall.com.

“The safety and well-being of our retail partners and shoppers is of the utmost importance,” says Augusta Mall general manager, Amy Dalton. “As Augusta Mall prepares for this ‘new normal,’ we are thankful for the opportunity to reopen our doors and look forward to welcoming guests back into the shopping center.”

We appreciate the continued support from the community and are eager to once again serve as a place where people can shop, dine, work and spend time together in a safe and controlled way.

Still across the CSRA businesses open slowly. Starbucks on Wrightsboro Road near the mall opened its drive thru last Sunday, while in door dining remains closed. And its neighbor, AT&T is still offering curbside service.

Across the way, Burger King advertises it is open all day inside and the drive thru. As all businesses get back to a new normal, The COVID Consortium advises to prepare for a crisis that may not be going away anytime soon.

“I think representatives across the country are trying to introduce legislation to help ease the burden of people seeking litigation against businesses, but it’s going to happen,” Kent said adding that attorneys will still be working. “The question is are you preparing your business so that you are not damaged.”

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