The popular Bridgewater Commons mall is a central attraction and shopping market for the township of Bridgewater, NJ, and its surrounding areas. On any typical day, hundreds of shoppers browse its stores and enjoy hanging out in the common areas to grab a quick snack or people-watch. Located on the intersection of Route 22 and 202/206, bordering I-287, the mall boasts approximately 900,000 square feet of inside shopping and dining space with over 160 stores. Its semi-modern architecture and large windows are telling features of its design- a landmark that locals instantly recognize. Since its opening in 1988, the mall has remained open to the public year-round. But now, in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, Bridgewater Commons mall has decided to close its doors until further notice. This was not an easy decision for the owners to make, but it was a necessary action to ensure the safety of all mall visitors and minimize coronavirus infection risk.
Previously on March 16, 2020, Bridgewater Commons mall had decided to minimize shopping hours to noon to 7:00 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays and 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays. These hours were according to a press release by the mall. To respect the individual stores and food vendors within the mall, they were given the power to implement their own modified hours and store procedures. Now, as of March 20, 2020, the Bridgewater mall is taking extra precaution and closing down all store operations with the exception of certain stores that have an external entrance leading outside of the mall; however, most external stores such as Bloomingdale’s have already halted their operations. All indoor common areas of the mall are closed until further notice, and all mall events (such as the Easter Bunny Experience) have been unfortunately postponed. This decision was made in light of the Governor’s Executive Order #104 from the state of New Jersey as well as an administrative order from the Department of Law and Public Safety Division of New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management. The Governor’s Executive Order- announced on March 17- ordered not only all indoor shopping malls but also amusement parks, bowling alleys, zoos, aquariums, arcades, fairs, water parks, etc., to shut down until our national emergency ceases. In compliance with this order, March 17 at 8:00 p.m. marked the final, closing hours of the Bridgewater mall.
We are all familiar with the coronavirus at this point since it has been at the forefront of every media outlet across the globe. Our world is diving into a fear-based state fueled by panic due to the quick spread of infection and rising death toll. Since this virus (also known as COVID-19) has a high infection rate and spreads from person to person very easily, governments across the globe- and particularly in the USA- are demanding limited social interactions. Group gatherings are restricted to only a handful of people and are actually discouraged no matter the group size. This practice of minimizing social contact, avoiding public areas, and restricting large group gatherings has been coined with the phrase “social distancing.” With so much governmental pressure of social distancing due to the coronavirus, it is not surprising that Bridgewater Commons mall closed. This is not the only mall or public facility closing in New Jersey. Many restaurants, coffee shops, bars, event venues, and stores have either temporarily closed their doors or heavily limited their hours to honor social distancing. Even most public colleges and universities are now in the process of moving all classes online until further notice and are encouraging their students to stay at home and not return to campus unless absolutely necessary.
Right now, this is not a time to panic but rather a time to be aware and cautious. The coronavirus should be treated seriously if only out of concern for passing it to someone who may not have as strong of an immune system as the carrier. Limit social interactions and, instead, spend time in nature or taking on a new project at home. The number of infections continues to rise all across New Jersey, especially in Middlesex and Union counties, so practicing good hygiene is critical. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends washing the hands regularly, using hand sanitizer if out in public, avoiding crowded spaces, limiting social interactions, and staying at home if all possible. Bridgewater mall, along with other public businesses such as street talk phone repair, the local iPhone repair shop in Bridgewater NJ, will continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions alongside the CDC, and will reopen to the public when conditions improve.