The designer brands are seemingly preparing for civil unrest when New York City's government-mandated shelter-in-place order eventually lifts, the New York Times reports

With New York City being the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, some of the city’s most popular shopping streets located in Soho neighborhood have all been shut down.

Photos captured last week of the world-famous area — home to luxury retailers like Dior, Louis Vuitton, Coach and Dolce & Gabbana — depict a jarringly different Soho. Sidewalks once bustling with tourists are now empty and several storefronts once packed with eager customers are now boarded up with sheets of plywood. Stores located on N.Y.C.’s other shopping destination, Fifth Avenue, has also followed suit, as well as luxury stores in Los Angeles’ famous Rodeo Drive.

Why bolt the doors? The designer brands are seemingly preparing for riots and civil unrest when New York City’s government-mandated shelter-in-place order eventually lifts. The trend follows that in Europe, where shopping destinations in London and Milan have covered their windows so expensive merchandise is no longer visible, the New York Times reports.

Storefronts in New York board up due to coronavirus
Credit: John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty
Some high end stores like Dolce & Gabbana on Mercer Street
Credit: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty

Dior, Louis Vuitton, Coach and Dolce & Gabbana did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Speaking to the New York Times, executive director of the Soho Broadway Initiative Mark Dicus said that he reached out to many of the landlords and retailers in the neighborhood advising them to hire security instead.

Storefronts in New York board up due to coronavirus
Credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty

“Boarding up your storefront makes it so that people on the street can’t see inside,” he told the outlet. “That might be more appealing to those looking for break in opportunities.” Mr. Dicus added that the approach could add to residents’ anxieties at an already stressful time.

Dicus continued: “We want to maintain a sense of normalcy and make sure our neighborhoods are safe. We feel there are ways to take care of that without resorting to drastic measures like boarding up storefronts.”

Storefronts in New York board up due to coronavirus
Credit: John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty

The eerie pictures come amid news that major fashion retailers temporarily closed down in an effort to help stop the spread of the virus.

Zara announced last Wednesday that it will temporarily close all U.S. locations, while H&M made the decision to close all locations in U.S. and Canada. Both retailers are still offering online shopping services for the time being.

North American chains like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom have also made the call to shut down all stores until the end of the month.

Last week, Nordstrom shared a statement on social media. “To help do our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 we will temporarily close all ours stores for two weeks beginning Tuesday, March 17th.”

The company will continue to pay employees during the two-week period and provide “additional resources to help them through this challenging time.” Like other competitors, will still remain open for online orders.

On March 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York state residents would be required to “stay at home” unless absolutely necessary, starting March 20.

“We’re going to take it to the ultimate step, and we’re going to close the valve. We’re going to put an executive order out today, New York state is on pause,” he said in a press conference.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
| Credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty

Under the order, 100 percent of non-essential workers are to be at home except for trips to get groceries, medications and other needed items, and must stay six feet apart from each other. Residents are allowed to go outside for walks and exercise, but only if they are solo.

“It’s not laying in a park with 10 other people and sharing a beer — that’s not what this is,” Cuomo said.

Essential workers — those in health care, grocery and pharmacy staff and utility workers — are to continue.

“These are not helpful hints. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced,” Cuomo said. “There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance.”

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