Hobby Lobby reopens dozens of stores in defiance of coronavirus lockdowns

Hobby Lobby has been quietly reopening dozens of stores in defiance of statewide stay-at-home orders.

The arts-and-crafts retailer on Monday reopened all 19 of its stores in Ohio and 17 of 20 in Wisconsin -- whose governors each issued March 24 orders closing nonessential businesses -- and circulated talking points to managers if local authorities asked questions about the decision, reported Business Insider.

One of the three Wisconsin stores that remains closed was forcibly shuttered by police after briefly reopening, and an employee told Business Insider they were busy "working on projects" while the store was closed.

A similar incident was reported in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where local authorities forced Hobby Lobby to close after reopening for one hour.

Employees complained the company was issuing contradictory instructions about the closures and reopenings, and they're afraid that working during the coronavirus outbreak puts them and their families at risk.

"This has all been so stressful and exhausting," said one employee whose store reopened in defiance of a statewide order. "I don't want to stay home because I'm too lazy to work, I want to stay home to do my part to stop the spread of the virus."

Hobby Lobby has claimed its stores are essential because they sell educational materials and products for home-based businesses, but employees said they were frustrated by the claims because most state guidelines and those issued by the Department of Homeland Security disagree.

They're also angry the company won't allow them to wear masks or gloves while working because customers might become uncomfortable.

"Hobby Lobby is fighting that we are an essential store," said one employee in North Carolina, where the company's stores remain open despite a statewide order. "There is absolutely nothing in Hobby Lobby worth spreading this illness. I'm honestly appalled at this company and the way it doesn't care for its employees and only about making their money."