By Betty Yu

PLEASANTON (KPIX) — Many last minute Christmas shoppers said they headed to Bay Area malls to find gifts Tuesday evening, because at this point, it’s too late to order them online.

Shoppers said they didn’t expect to see so many people out two days three days before Christmas.

At Stoneridge Shopping Center in Pleasanton, shoppers waited in socially-distanced lines outside popular stores like Sephora and Foot Locker.

Under the stay-at-home order, retail stores in Alameda County are allowed to operate at 20% capacity.

“There have been outbreaks associated with grocery stores and even big box outlets, but it was usually in the context of crowding areas,” said UCSF Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

“If you limit the capacity, provided you have good ventilation, which at most malls, I think is pretty decent.”

Dr. Chin-Hong says if shoppers keep their masks on, stay out of crowds, and stores follow guidelines, they should be mostly safe.

Shopping is also generally safer than dining, he added. Still, people at malls do often take off their masks to eat or drink.

“If you’re waiting for a long time, you’re going to let your guard down, you’re going to munch on that snack, you’re going to take your mask off and then somebody’s going to run by you or shout at you and these all increase the risk,” he said. “So again it’s not so much the setting, as much as the behaviors people have in that setting as well.”

This past weekend, it was a similar scene at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek.

“I think people are just fatigued with this whole shelter-in-place,” said Donna Frankel of Walnut Creek. “I think that this Christmas spirit has overwhelmed people and they can’t take it.”

There were plenty of people out and about.

“I think everybody is ready to get out and also find a way to invite some joy into their lives,” said Charles Hill of Oakland.

Dr. Chin-Hong says to reduce the risk of transmission, people should spend as little time as necessary inside stores.

And the least risky activity — online shopping.

“I’m surprised by the number of people that are out, I mean I probably wouldn’t be out, other than my wife is returning a gift,” said Daniel Frankel of Walnut Creek.