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GENEVA – Joann Fabrics and Crafts in Geneva was open for business this week as though there is no COVID-19 pandemic and no executive order from Gov. Pritzker that all non-essential establishments be closed.
As of Thursday, the store announced it was closed except for curbside service.
On Wednesday, however, when a reporter visited the store, there was a steady stream of customers coming to the fabric and craft store at 714 Commons Drive, in the Geneva Commons Shopping Center on Randall Road.
There were no disinfectant wipes for the cart handles.
A question to an employee about a product availability did not include any social distancing.
When the reporter and seven other people waited in line to check out, there were no markings on the floor to indicate social distancing. So older people, younger people and a woman with an infant stood queued up together as though there was no coronavirus warning or stay-at-home order from the governor.
The Joann Fabrics cashier did not wipe down the counter or the buttons on the credit card reader with disinfectant wipes, so as each customer came through, he or she pressed buttons that were just touched by someone else.
The conditions in the store were contrary to the sign on the front door, which acknowledged that “that the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty for everyone and many local retailers have temporarily closed their doors and required employees to work remotely.”
“The safety of our team members, customers and community is our top priority. … That said, because JOANN cares about its team members and customers, we are also following all CDC and local health department recommendations to mitigate exposure to COVID-19 including modified store hours, enhanced cleaning procedures and social distancing,” the message states.
“That is why JOANN is staying open during this difficult time, so that we can satisfy the needs of our customers forced to work from home, and more importantly, support our local community by providing desperately needed raw materials to make personal protective equipment (masks and gowns) for our frontline healthcare personnel,” the message states.
“JOANN is working with local hospital networks to donate these much needed materials. Please see a team member if you are interested in joining JOANN’s effort!” the message states.
An employee stated that the store was open because many people have home businesses and need craft supplies in order to stay working.
Several customers were taking advantage of the store’s offer of free fabric kits to make personal protection masks, both picking up supplies inside and waiting outside for employees to bring it to them at the curb.
A Joann company official did not immediately return an email request for comment about the Geneva store.
This is the second day in a row that a Kane County Chronicle reporter went to the Geneva Joann Fabric store and no social distancing or disinfectant wipes were being used.
According to Gov. Pritzker's executive order, craft stores are not on the list of essential businesses.
"As of right now, people seem to be in voluntary compliance with the order," said Brian Maduzia, commander of patrol operations for the Geneva Police Department. "The police department has not handled any calls or situations involving individuals disobeying the order."
However, he said the department and Geneva City Hall have received several phone calls along with online inquiries about various businesses still in operation. The department is encouraging businesses to check with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for further clarification.
"If they are given clearance as essential, they can remain open," Maduzia said. "We are trying not to interpret the language in the order, but encourage voluntary compliance."
A competing craft store, Michael’s, 1506 S Randall Road, also in Geneva, separated clean carts from used ones, had the floor marked off at the checkout counter for social distancing and the cashier wiped down the counter and the credit card reader after each customer came through.
An employee stated the store was open because it is a UPS pick up and drop off point, and is therefore considered an essential business, as defined by the governor’s executive order.
Another competing craft store, Hobby Lobby, 421 N Randall Road, Batavia, was closed.
A sign posted on the window stated, "Based on guidance from public health officials, we are closed effective 3/21/2020 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. We will reopen when the situation improves and look forward to returning to normalcy."
Reporter Eric Schelkopf contributed to this report.