Apple says it will close again nearly a dozen US stores amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections in the South and West, reversing its recent move to reopen stores as states begin to ease lockdowns.
The move sent US equities plummeting as investors feared Apple’s caution could signal greater corporate concern over whether it’s safe to reopen the US economy.
Apple shares turned negative on the news, falling 1.4 percent, while the entire S&P 500 index lost its gains as of morning. However, Apple stock remains close to an all-time high, with investors valuing the group above $1.5 trillion – about $220 billion more than at the start of the year.
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives called it a “worrying trend” for US retail, though he thought the impact on Apple’s sales would be limited. “Apple is an important barometer worldwide,” he said. “In front of [chief executive Tim] Cook to close stores after reopening just a month ago, it’s a headbutt for the reopening bulls. †
The iPhone maker has listed 11 locations in four states that will close. Six locations are closing in Arizona, where new cases have risen daily to 2,519, down from less than 300 at the end of May. Two Florida locations are being closed again, where the number of daily cases has nearly quadrupled in the past month to 3,207.
Other locations are in North Carolina and South Carolina, all of which have set daily records in the past week.
“Due to the current Covid-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas,” Apple said. “We are taking this step with great caution as we are monitoring the situation closely and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible.”
Apple had originally closed all of its global stores outside of China on March 14, citing the need to “reduce density and maximize social distancing”.
On May 8, when it looked like the coronavirus had begun to subside, Apple said it was “excited” to reopen its US locations, starting with Idaho, South Carolina, Alabama and Alaska. Customers had to undergo a quick temperature check, then wear masks and observe social distancing.
Just days ago, Apple said it expected it to reopen 70 additional US stores by the end of the week, including some in New York City, which will enter another phase of reopening Monday, meaning more than 200 of the 271 US stores would be operational again.
Meanwhile, in Apple’s home state, California, Governor Gavin Newsom continued to tighten restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. He announced on Thursday that masks are now mandatory in “every indoor public space,” including hospitals, public transportation and when performing work.
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