Boarding up windows is a step usually taken before hurricanes, not American elections.
But a day before the 2020 general election, the CVS Pharmacy location in downtown Harrisburg has been seen with plywood covering its windows.
A manager with the store confirmed that the Market Street CVS location would be closed tomorrow and remain closed “until further notice,” due to concern about local unrest.
“There were rumors going around that it was going to get ugly around here,” said the manager, who declined to be identified for this story.
“We are closely monitoring the situation in our markets, and our local leaders are empowered to take steps that they determine will best support the safety of our stores, employees and customers,” said Amy Thibault, spokesperson for CVS. “This includes the boarding of windows at some stores, including our location at 221 Market Street in Harrisburg. The Market Street store will be closed tomorrow as a precaution as well. We plan to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Several CVS locations in Philadelphia were damaged last week, as protests continued in the wake of the shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. by police. CBS 3 in Philadelphia reported that 20 CVS locations had suffered damage from protesters and looters, leading to the temporary closure of a dozen stores.
One Harrisburg resident, Anwar Curtis, said the move confused him. He questioned why an individual store would close unless there were threats being made.
“I don’t know why CVS thinks they would be the only business that would be targeted,” Curtis said.
He also said the CVS isn’t in a bad neighborhood, but rather it is central to downtown where anyone from a state representative to students might be customers.
Curtis said during his lifetime of living in Harrisburg, he’s never seen the kind of looting that other cities have experienced this year as mass protests have erupted around the nation.
“Thank god we haven’t come to that,” Curtis said. He recalled some of the tensest moments he’s lived through in the city, and said even at those points, people steered clear of looting.
He also sees how area residents, especially the elderly, may now be cut off from the only pharmacy they know or have a relationship with.
“That is heartbreaking that they may not be able to have that option,” Curtis said.
He believes this kind of precaution was taken in large part due to the political rhetoric being shared by top politicans, inciting fear around the country.
“No one is feeling protected. For so many different reasons,” Curtis said.
While the election was not cited specifically as the reason that the Harrisburg CVS was being closed, it is a precaution that is being taken by many retailers nationwide in the final hours leading up to Nov. 3. Atlantic City businesses began boarding up their windows on Saturday, something that Mayor Marty Small told NJ Advance Media was “a precautionary measure” prior to the contentious election.
The New York Times noted that many retailers, among them CVS, Nordstrom, Tiffany & Company, Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s, have all begun planning for how to contain election-related unrest. Many of them have also taken steps to protect windows or otherwise increase security of their stores, or enacted trainings to de-escalate potential conflicts with customers.
Thus far, the Market Street store is the only CVS location in the greater Harrisburg area to have been found preparing for closure.