CHICAGO (WLS) -- Many retailers are in need of a strong holiday shopping season, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also put out a warning specifically for this time.
The windows are decorated and the lights are glowing, but the typical Black Friday feeling pretty much stops there.
The Chicago shopping scene wasn't very busy the day after Thanksgiving, in part because retailers and consumers are reimagining the holiday shopping tradition.
RELATED: Sites with aggregate deals help you find the hottest buys this holiday season
In Glenview, Abt Electronics said that appetite has not slowed down. Giant TVs were still rolling through the parking lot as the store continues to see demand for home appliances too.
"They need products, they need their stuff fixed. Everybody's home [so] everybody's over-using their appliances," said Jon Abt, co-president of Abt Electronics.
But even as some people are still buying big-ticket items this holiday season, Abt said how they're shopping has changed because of COVID-19.
Masks and temperature checks are required in-store, but many are pivoting to online and phone orders, and with curbside pickup encouraged for everyone.
"I feel more secure and safe than having to go inside," said David Terrones.
Terrones shopped ahead online, but with a baby on the way in the middle of an uncertain pandemic, he said he's not splurging on luxury goods.
"I don't know where we're going for the next six months," he said.
On Chicago's Magnificent Mile, Maria Espinoza also focused on more essential items.
"Honestly, it's mostly soap, and hand sanitizer," she said.
Espinoza said she also found flexible pick-up options, which she thinks helped keep Michigan Avenue noticeably sedate.
"It's actually easier than some of the other years. Because of that, there weren't as many crowds or lines," she said.
In Racine, Wisconsin - where new pandemic restrictions took effect Friday - some customers still lined up in person for the age old post-Thanksgiving tradition of bargain hunting.
"It's a challenge, but I mean, we're just trying to do the best that we can," said GameStop employee Alex Andersen.
As millions of Americans insist upon braving malls, airports, and other high-traffic areas this Thanksgiving stretch, public health experts are bracing for yet another post-holiday surge.
A CDC ensemble forecast projects U.S. COVID-19 deaths could reach at least 294,000 by December 19. That means 30,000 Americans alive for Thanksgiving may die before Christmas.
"We're already in a major surge of coronavirus and now we're going to get a massive surge on top of a massive surge," said Former Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.
For that reason, the bulk of the holiday buys are expected to come from digital sales. According to the National Retail Federation, this year online and other non-store sales are forecasted to increase between 20 and 30%, and could top $218 billion.
RELATED: Black Friday 2020 deals shopping guide
Those numbers expose how the pandemic continues to deepen economic disparities.
Part of the push this year is to get more people to buy at Black-owned businesses, with the goal of narrowing Chicago's racial wealth gap.
"We can't stay open without - without the people, without the community, so it's definitely important for everybody to support each other. Not just Black people supporting Black businesses, but the entire community throughout Chicago," said Crystal LaJuene, owner of Looks & Style.
As the holiday season surges ahead, economists expect those who have are spending, and those who are hurting are hoping the holiday delivers in the form of another aid package from Capitol Hill.