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How to enjoy Black Friday 2020 safely amid a pandemic: officials weigh in

November 26, 2020
<p>Shopping bags graphic by Hope Ann Flores.</p>

Shopping bags graphic by Hope Ann Flores.

Photo by Hope Ann Flores | The State News

Black Friday, an informal holiday that is often characterized by pushing, shoving and sometimes, all-out fistfights between shoppers, is expected to be different this year.

With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in Michigan, the shopping season might occur just on the computer screens and in limited socially-distanced retail shops. CDC has listed “going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving” in the high-risk category for COVID-19 transmission. But there are safer ways to enjoy Black Friday than congregating in a big box store.

“Our recommendation would be not to necessarily go out on the busiest shopping day of the year,” Lynn Sutfin, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), said. “We would prefer that individuals spread their shopping out. ... Some businesses are offering similar Black Friday deals throughout the week."

Sutfin said that shoppers that do participate in Black Friday should wear masks, wash or sanitize their hands often and practice 6-feet of physical distancing, especially in lines.

Online shopping is definitely an option, Sutfin said, but the shoppers that wish to support local businesses should shop in early December or mid-afternoon on Black Friday, or other times that provide a safer shopping experience than the typical late-night sprees that occur each year.

East Lansing City Council Member Lisa Babcock urged residents to stay home but also said that if they must go out on Black Friday that they should shop local. 

“Every dollar you spend at our local stores stays in the community and keeps the community vibrant,” Babcock said. “You’ll encounter fewer crowds. ... Smaller crowds mean a lesser chance of infection, and in East Lansing, our businesses in the community are doing their best to protect you by requiring masks in the downtown area."

The office for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sent out a press release on Monday, Nov. 23 detailing how shoppers can stay safe while shopping this holiday season, urging shoppers to avoid crowds by taking advantage of early sales both online and in-person. While shopping online protects consumers from the coronavirus and possibly physical violence, the press release also warned shoppers of potential cybercrime.

The release said that consumers should stick to secure websites with an “https” web address and that they should compare product prices and read retailer reviews to ensure that they are not being charged an exuberantly high price.

The Attorney General’s office is also offering a special section on the Attorney General’s website in order to “educate consumers on the numerous tactics used to cheat them out of their funds,” called “20 Days of Scams.” More information can be found at michigan.gov.

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