Apple extends closure of US stores indefinitely on coronavirus worries

The company previously closed all stores outside China until March 27 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it's since extended that indefinitely around the globe. You can still shop online.

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Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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Apple's US stores are closed indefinitely.

James Martin/CNET

Apple is keeping all its US stores shuttered until further notice as the company, and the country, deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Apple previously said its stores around the globe would close until March 27, but on Tuesday it amended its plans to make the closures indefinite.

The indefinite closure is for all physical stores outside of Greater China. Apple's online stores remain open, though.

"Our retail stores are closed until further notice," Apple said in a banner on its store page. "We are committed to providing exceptional service to our customers. For purchases with fast and free delivery, shop here on apple.com or the Apple Store app. For service and support, go to support.apple.com or call 800-275-2273. We look forward to seeing you soon."

Watch this: WWDC 2020 will be online only

Apple on Monday shared information on how to return and repair devices while its physical stores are closed. If you have a broken device, you can start a repair online or contact Apple support. The company will accept returns of some items past the 14-day return window if the end of the window falls during the closures. 

On Friday, the Cupertino, California-based company encouraged employees to work from home and said it's committed $15 million to help with recovery efforts. It'll also match, and double, donations made directly by employees.

"In our workplaces and communities, we must do all we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted late Friday. In a note posted to Apple's newsroom, Cook said hourly workers would continue to be paid during the store closures. 

The coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. The virus was reported to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31 and has been under investigation since. Chinese scientists have linked the disease to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses, which include SARS and MERS. The WHO last week labeled the coronavirus a pandemic.

The disease has now spread to the US, causing President Donald Trump on Friday to declare a state of emergency. Schools have closed, Closures have swept across the country, from Broadway theaters to NBA venues, and starting Tuesday, the San Francisco Bay Area is on lockdown. More than 4,600 coronavirus cases have been reported in the US, and there's still a shortage of tests for the virus. 

Last week, Apple said it would make its Worldwide Developers Conference online only. The event, one of its biggest of the year, is where the company introduces its newest software features for its iPhones , Macs and various other devices. Apple hasn't yet said when the online conference will be held. 

"The current health situation has required that we create a new WWDC 2020 format that delivers a full program with an online keynote and sessions, offering a great learning experience for our entire developer community, all around the world," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said in a statement. Apple counts 23 million registered developers in more than 155 countries.

Apple is just the latest in a string of companies shifting or canceling events as the coronavirus has spread around the world. Internet giants Facebook and Google have canceled their respective developer events, which were planned for the spring. Large organizations too have scuttled their plans, including the annual SXSW music and tech festival in Texas, the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Even Disneyland shut down.

Coronavirus and Apple

As is the case with many businesses around the world, the coronavirus has been hurting Apple's operations. The company last month warned that it likely will miss the quarterly revenue guidance it gave in January. It cited two reasons for the update: The coronavirus was hurting both demand from Chinese customers and production capabilities inside the country. China is one of Apple's biggest markets and the primary location where its devices like the iPhone are assembled. Because factories are coming online later, there'll be iPhone shortages around the globe, Apple said. 

Apple in late January closed its stores in China to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The stores are now all opened, and they won't be included in the new round of closures. 

"What we've learned together [from the experience in China] has helped us all develop the best practices that are assisting enormously in our global response," Cook said Friday in a post shared online. "One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus's transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance."

Anyone who needs Apple support can visit the company's online support page, and its online store will remain open. The company also will continue to pay its hourly workers as if stores were still open, Cook said, and it has expanded its medical leave policies to accommodate coronavirus-related issues. 

Cook also said the company is moving to "flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China," which means Apple employees should work remotely if their roles allow it. It's rolling out new health screenings and temperature checks in its offices. 

"There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment," Cook said. "We do not yet know with certainty when the greatest risk will be behind us. ... And yet I have been inspired by the humanity and determination I have seen from all corners of our global community."

9to5Mac earlier spotted Tuesday's indefinite closure notice.

CNET's Sean Keane contributed to this report.

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