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Gov. Cuomo: ‘Large’ malls in New York will need high-quality air systems to reopen

Malls in New York will need high-quality air systems that can filter out COVID-19 before they will be allowed to reopen. 

“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,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a press briefing on Monday. "For many of these systems it depends on what filter you install."

The governor, who did not specify when malls will be allowed to reopen, said high-efficiency particulate air filters — HEPA filters — remove particulates from the air that are as small as .01 microns, which is smaller than the .1 microns associated with COVID-19 particulates.

"For large mall reopenings, which we haven't done yet, but we're going to make this mandatory," he said, adding he would "recommend" all state businesses use air handling systems that have the same specifications.

Mall operators and heating ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration association ASHRAE have disputed claims that indoor that their indoor heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems pose a danger.

Pyramid Management Group, owner of 11 malls in New York, including Destiny USA, issued a statement on June 25 in which it fought back against claims that mall HVAC system poses a threat of spreading the virus. In fact, Pyramid said, "the relative risk within our airy, enclosed malls may, in fact, be lower" than places than stores that are already open “as we have done more than is necessary based on health and safety recommendations to improve the existing air filtration systems within our shopping centers to bolster the quality of airflow within our centers.”

“While we can appreciate the state’s concern about the public’s health and safety, any reporting that suggests that HVAC systems within enclosed shopping centers are more likely to distribute the virus than HVAC systems within restaurants, barbershops, office buildings, museums and freestanding retailers already open like Target, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx (and others) is simply false," Pyramid stated. “The quality of overall air circulation in our shopping centers, which also benefit from considerable open and airy corridors, is as good or better than those venues that have been allowed to re-open. Numerous health and safety experts support the view that enclosed shopping centers present no greater risk of spreading the virus through their HVAC systems than standalone, freestanding retailers’ locations.”

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