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Nebraska Outdoor Outlet Mall Plans To Reopen Before State's Coronavirus Cases Peak

GRETNA, Neb. (CBS Local) -- Despite a steady increase in coronavirus cases in Nebraska, owners of a major outdoor outlet mall near Omaha are planning to become one of the first malls across the country to fully re-open.

In a flier distributed to retailers on Tuesday, Nebraska Crossing Outlets in Gretna said the April 24 "soft opening" is an unveiling of newly remodeled restaurants and outdoor spaces.

Nebraska Crossing said it would gradually transition to a formal grand re-opening in May, according to the owner.

The flier says the outdoor shopping center has thorough cleaning practices in place, including taking employees' temperatures and having them wear protective masks and gloves.

"We're looking at the great opportunity to set some best practices and help our retailers open their portfolios across the country," owner Rod Yates told the Omaha World-Herald.

But the Nebraska Hospital Association, which represents 93 hospitals, said the move "poses serious risks to the health of all Nebraskans."

"Quite simply, it's irresponsible for a nonessential retailer to open its doors to the public in the middle of a pandemic," NHA President Laura J. Redoutey said Tuesday in a statement.

Nebraska is one of seven states in the U.S. to have no official stay-at-home order, urging citizens to practice social distancing guidelines without making them mandatory.

As of Wednesday, the state has documented more than 950 coronavirus cases and 21 COVID-19 related deaths. The state's peak is expected around May 2, eight days after the outlet mall is supposed to reopen.

Governor Pete Ricketts, who has issued several measures that forced many businesses to close, said on Tuesday the mall and other stores are free to open as long as they follow social-distancing orders.

"If companies are looking to be able to get prepared for some point down the road when those restrictions are loosened, that's OK, but anybody who's operating still needs to continue to follow all the guidelines," he said.

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