Apple stores throughout New York City have shuddered access to their physical locations for all customers1, due to heightened fears of COVID-19. Nine locations have switched to ‘pick-up only’ for customers, and ‘appointment-only’ for ‘genius bar’ services. Only three of the twelve NYC locations are confirmed “open”, while store employees are told to keep physical interactions under ten minutes.
So far New York City has managed to avoid the same fate as last season, the state allowing businesses to remain operational, instead penalizing their customers for not complying with local ordinances. In order to participate in society, New Yorkers must continue to mask up indoors, even after receiving the state’s mandated inoculations. While although these restrictions have remained in place, fear of Omicron continues to manifest itself throughout New York.
Variant Inspired Lockdowns
With the majority of Apple’s locations going into lockdown, will the rest of New York City succumb to the same fate? Many New York City small businesses struggle to remain open, still repaying the debts incurred during the last purge. Another closure could seal the fate of many longstanding establishments throughout the city.
Beyond businesses, the pandemic has taken a toll on New Yorker’s mental health during the last nearly two years of isolation. Those who have maintained residency throughout the pandemic experienced a total shift in the great city America once knew. Where the lively pulse of entertainment once thrived, now exists only in the memories of the past, entombed in the city’s shuddered businesses and fallen venues.
As the variant hysteria begins to spread, lockdowns may be issued either as a preventative measure, or an incentive to get triple vaccinated. With mandated boosters being touted as the next public safety measure, many are concerned that the coronavirus pandemic may never end. Each variant is able to evoke the original fear and uncertainty which previously encouraged citizens to give up their rights, for the greater good.
Apple Stores - New York City
After reaching out to all twelve Apple stores in New York City, it was learned that ‘each store has a different approach depending on their region,’ as stated by various employees. While some locations shut down entirely, “until further notice”, others continue to conduct business as usual. Here is a full breakdown of all twelve locations, as of Dec 30th, 2021:
SOHO - According to Apple SOHO, the store is confirmed open to the public, however, there may be a wait. At the time that I spoke with the employee, they stated the store was not busy.
“We are looking at the situation on the ground” explained one Apple employee, stating the SOHO location was ‘adjusting and pivoting depending on the needs of the situation’.
“So far, so good.” added the Apple employee.
Upper East Side - The Upper East Side location is confirmed as “open to the public.” Customers are allowed to shop around and browse.
An Apple employee stated, “Each store has their own protocol depending on their location.”
Upper West Side - Is the Upper West Side store open?
“Yes and No” responded an Upper West Side Apple employee.
“Here is what we were told,” said an Apple employee “Every interaction should be less than ten minutes”
Grand Central Station - Apple’s Grand Central Station location is confirmed “appointment only for the ‘genius bar’, pick-up only for customers”
“All the stores are like this right now” stated an employee.
When asked how long these restrictions will stay in effect, the Apple employee responded, “We don’t have an estimated time frame,” confirming that they had in fact shut down as a preventative measure due to COVID-19.
World Trade Center - The Apple World Trade Center location is confirmed as “appointment only for the ‘genius bar’, pick-up only for customers”
Williamsburg - The Apple Williamsburg store is confirmed as “closed until further notice.”
Downtown Brooklyn - Apple Downtown Brooklyn is another New York City location currently closed to the public.
Remaining New York City Locations - Apple 5th Ave, Apple West 14th St, Apple Staten Island, Apple Queens, and Apple Bronx locations could not be reached for comment. Speaking to an Apple operator who oversaw all NYC locations, the operator informed me that Staten Island was open 10:00am - 6:00pm, and by appointment only, as well as the other remaining locations which were all following the same protocol.
“This [by appointment only] applies to all Apple locations in New York City” the Apple operator stated.
Apple Employee Walkout
“Don’t cross the picket line.” warned the headline to an employee awareness campaign created to bring attention to the working conditions of the employees during the COVID-19 pandemic2.
On December 23rd, 2021, 3:48pm, Apple Together @AppleLaborers posted,
“We are Apple. We deserve a respectful workplace. We deserve paid sick time. We deserve protection on the frontlines. We deserve proper mental healthcare. Demand that Apple upholds its image with your wallet. Don’t shop in stores. Don’t shop online. #AppleWalkout December 24, 2021”
On December 24th, 2021 Apple employees staged a walk-out, demanding better working conditions for employees3. The employees, demanded hazard pay, living wage adjustment raises, healthcare premium coverage, more accessible paid leave, full benefits for part-time workers, and protections from abusive customers.
In addition, apple employees demanded N95 masks for both employees and customers, hand sanitizing stations, customer access by appointment only, and banning loitering. Using #AppleWalkout, the employees were able to build awareness to the conditions of their workplace. Could this measure have influenced its New York City store closures? After inquiring a few locations if any employees had participated in this walkout, many NYC Apple employees were unaware it had even existed.
While Apple’s company is known for being technological trendsetters, will this instance be an exception to their influence? Will New York City shut its doors in 2022? After almost two years, citizens are still await to breathe a sigh of relief. Daily routines like masking up, mandates vaccines avoiding participating in unnecessary events, have reduced the quality of everyday life for many New Yorkers. With new legislation being decided upon in January 2022, the state of New York may again change form.
In its current state, New York City is a disorganized conflict between various competing health mandates, sometimes from the same entity, in the same city. A twenty-minute train ride means the difference between strict lockdowns or allowing walk-ins, and Apple isn't the only business to following this confusing trend. As for the severity of COVID-19, it remains open to interpretation, depending on the business. Citizens are expected to adapt and adhere to the ever-changing conflicting mandates, without questioning obvious contradictions. The majority of indoor businesses in New York City require masks, regardless of vaccination status. However, masks can be removed while eating or drinking, bringing question to the efficacy of the masking mandate. Many have begun to wear masks outdoors, accepting their fate as normalcy, despite no laws exist enforcing outdoor use.
Apple’s handling of the variant through restricting access to their physical locations demonstrates their initiative to ensure safety for their workers. It also demonstrates Apple’s contributions to the inflation of fear due to coronavirus variants, and acts as a warning to businesses who endured and survived the initial coronavirus lockdown. The Apple employees were not given an end date, stating they were told “until further notice.”