New York State may require specialized air filters for malls, which were recently taken out of phase four of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown along with gyms and movie theaters.
Long Island leaders have been calling for malls to reopen sooner, citing their importance to the region’s economy, but state officials say without proper filtration, air conditioning systems could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.
“Any malls that will open in New York, large malls, we will make it mandatory that they have air filtration systems that can filter out the COVID virus,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Monday during his latest pandemic press briefing.
High-efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters can be installed on top of pre-existing air conditioning or air filtration systems, the governor said. These filters can remove particles as small as 0.01 microns in diameter. By contrast, COVID-19’s particle has a diameter of around 0.125 microns.
“You look around the country, and you’re seeing malls, air conditioning systems, indoor spaces that have been problematic,” he said, alluding to an earlier comment that air conditioning systems were a point of concern in New York City’s indoor dining reopening.
While official U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state that COVID-19 spreads primarily due to human-to-human contact, some experts say that air quality and circulation may be a factor in spreading the respiratory virus.
“I’ve seen protocols for malls, I’ve seen how detailed they are,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “If we can walk through Penn Station and go to places like Costco, it makes a lot of sense to me that we can reopen the malls.”
In New Jersey, malls reopened statewide Monday for the first time since mid-March, with restrictions such as capping capacity at 50 percent, social distancing, and mandatory face coverings. Some Connecticut malls have been open since May 20.
Aside from malls, all businesses and offices are also recommended to explore the possibility of adding COVID-rated filters to their air conditioning systems, Cuomo said.
Mall stores with entrances separate to the general mall entrance have been allowed to open since phase two.
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