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Apple is beginning to open its retail stores around the globe, another sign that the weeks-long stay-at-home orders we've all been under to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus are starting to come to an end.
The tech giant closed its stores in March as the seriousness of the virus and the speed of its spread pushed many governments to order people to shelter in place, forcing businesses to close as well. The coronavirus has so far killed more than 272,000 patients and infected more than 3.9 million people worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
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Apple has begun opening some stores outside the US, such as in China and Australia, though with social distancing rules in place. The company said in a statement that it plans to open stores in Alabama, Alaska, Idaho and South Carolina. "Our team is constantly monitoring local heath data and government guidance, and as soon as we can safely open our stores, we will," Apple said in its statement. Apple's moves were reported earlier by CNBC.
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The tech giant's moves mark a possible sign the company believes the US is beginning to move into a new phase of dealing with the virus, during which people will safely be able to venture out of their homes for more than just groceries and essential needs and services. Apple was one of the first companies to raise an alarm that the coronavirus was turning into a worldwide danger, warning investors in a February statement that the virus would likely affect its ability to make and sell products.
Apple's relative vote of confidence comes as the US grapples with how and when to reopen states across the country. Some of that debate has been driven by concerns among some scientists that reopening too quickly could lead to a spike in infections, forcing governments to reissue stay-at-home orders. Polling in the past few weeks has shown that many members of the general public share those concerns, finding that a majority of Americans are worried the country will reopen too quickly.
Apple said it's instituting new safety rules for its stores as they reopen. The company said it'll limit the number of people who can be in a store at the same time. Apple stores tend to attract crowds, and they serve as destinations in many malls. "We recommend, where possible, customers buy online for contactless delivery or in-store pick up," the company added.