vaughan mills black friday

Black Friday sale crowds gather at Vaughan Mills with Toronto in lockdown

Malls and non-essential retailers in Toronto and Peel may be closed for in-person shopping at the moment, but it's clear that despite today's record high number of new COVID cases (and tests) across the province, people are still happy to region-hop the quick 40 minutes up to Vaughan Mills for some Black Friday deals (and perhaps some coronavirus).

Massive lineups were already forming outside and snaking around the sprawling shopping centre in York Region well before its early opening time of 8 a.m. on Friday, while the mall's social media accounts advised customers that social distancing policies would be in place.

"In order to control capacity in our malls, you may have to wait in line before entry," the team wrote in an Instagram story on Thursday night.

It also asked that shoppers take advantage of special QR codes to join stores' "virtual lineups" instead of congregating into lines, and that they "stay safe, follow all protocols and keep your distance from fellow shoppers."

The posts also reminded the general public that sales will be going on for multiple days, and not just today.

Based on the videos of lineups popping up on social media, people do seem to be social distancing at least somewhat on the exterior of the building — what's going on inside remains to be seen.

Residents of neighbouring municipalities have feared what the grey zone lockdown that began in the two Ontario hotspots on Monday will mean for their areas, particularly at attractions such as Vaughan Mills, which drew throngs and hours-long lineups when it reopened to the public after the first round of lockdown back in the spring.

And, predictably, consumers jammed Toronto malls leading up to this week's lockdown, and have since been traveling outside their home regions to nearby cities like Hamilton and Burlington to get their shop on and feel a little bit less like we're in the middle of a pandemic.

Toronto Mayor John Tory is among those officials that have asked both retailers and the public to abstain from in-person Black Friday sales, instead suggesting that people shop online or use local curbside pickup to avoid the risk of spreading the communicable disease.

"Frankly, I have said that I don't believe stores that are open for technical reason should even be holding in-person Black Friday sales," he said.

He also encouraged shoppers to opt for products from smaller independent businesses that are in dire need of the patronage right now, as opposed to big box stores in shopping malls.

Ontarians have also been asked in general not to region-hop, and to stay at home as much as possible, only leaving for essential trips to the grocery store, doctor or to exercise. Even visiting a friend you don't live with in Toronto or Peel is out of the question right now, according to provincial rules.

People following those rules are already on social media today condemning the actions of those insisting on flocking to Black Friday sales for non-essential goods, and region-hopping for unnecessary trips in general.

Vaughan Mills, which advertises itself as "Toronto's premier outlet mall," was actually a trending search term on Twitter over the weekend as people prepared for the strict lockdown in parts of the province.

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