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Apple Shuts Store After More Than 20 Employees Exposed to Covid

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(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. closed its store in Charleston, South Carolina, after more than 20 staff members were exposed to Covid-19, underscoring the company’s challenges getting its retail operations back to normal.

The store’s website shows it will be closed until next week, with a sign on the front of the location also alerting customers to the shutdown. Stores of the Charleston location’s size typically have 70 to 80 staff members, suggesting that about a quarter of employees were exposed. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple has opened and closed its retail stores several times during the pandemic due to Covid-19 concerns. But this move -- shutting down a location due to a rash of employees exposed to the virus -- is rare.

Read more about Apple ramping up Covid testing of employees

Some other Apple retail stores across the U.S. have shortened their operating hours, partly because of Covid but also due to the tight labor market. Apple has about 270 retail stores in the U.S., and nearly all those locations have been open since the end of June.

The spread of the highly contagious delta variant has forced Apple to make other changes. After dropping its mask requirement in June, the company reinstated the policy last month. And the company nixed a plan to reboot in-store classes at its stores after less than a day.

Apple also launched a program to let some retail staff work from home to assist people online. But its physical stores will be critical to Apple in the coming months as the company launches new iPads, iPhones, Apple Watches, AirPods and Macs.

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