Malls across the state are going to be shut down for at least a little longer.

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On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that air conditioning filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating capable of filtering COVID-19 particles or similar air exchange measures will be mandatory in for a large mall 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-19 virus," Cuomo said. “We have been looking at this issue because you look around the country, you see malls, you see air-conditioning systems, indoor space that have been problematic, and we think this offers promise."

A COVID-19 particle is approximately 0.125 microns in diameter. Filters with a high MERV, such as High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, have been shown to help reduce the presence of COIVD-19 in air filtration systems, according to the governor's office.

“There are HEPA filters, which are high-efficiency particle air filters, that can actually filter out the COVID virus,” Cuomo said on Monday during a COVID-19 briefing. "The COVID virus is .1 microns. There are HEPA filters that can filter out .01."

A mall source told the New York Post “From what we can tell, no mall owners have these systems in place."

Cuomo says the mandatory order comes after reports from other states that have reopened shows unfiltered air in large indoor public spaces could spread COVID-19.

Pyramid Management Group, which operates the Galleria at Crystal Run in Middletown and the Poughkeepsie Galleria, released the following statement:

The State of New York reiterated today that malls would remain closed indefinitely. This is both unfair and unjustified. The State cites situations in other states where bar and restaurant patrons have crowded into tight venues without masks and social distancing being required, creating greater risk for virus transmission. That is not in any way comparable to a vast open shopping center with millions of square feet available to socially distance, nor is it comparable to venues like ours with comprehensive safety protocols in place, including the requirement of masks.

 

Otherwise, the primary reason being used for mall closures is that air circulation systems could circulate the coronavirus. If that is the case, why are freestanding restaurants, barber shops, office buildings, museums and large retailers allowed to remain open? The fresh air circulation and filtration systems we have in place are as good or better. In addition, a short while ago, the State indicated that its team of health officials are looking for an air filter that removes the virus from the air flow and seemed to suggest that malls could not open until that is resolved. None of the retail stores, restaurants and other buildings that have been allowed to open by New York State have such a filter system in place. Why are we being treated differently and inequitably?

 

The State has cited a report from China regarding one isolated restaurant environment on the 3 rd floor of a building. That report has been refuted by multiple health professionals in the United States. In addition, experts from Vanderbilt, Penn State and Johns Hopkins University have noted that the standards for HVAC systems in the United States are significantly higher than other countries. More tellingly, there have been no COVID-19 cases transmitted through HVAC systems.

 

We and our tenants understand and respect the focus on public health. However, there is no documented link between HVAC systems and the spread of COVID-19 in malls. And the fact is that we already have engaged HVAC professionals to increase fresh air flow into the building, change filters and follow other recommendations. This week, we have spoken with dozens of HVAC companies who have shared that Pyramid has done considerably more than other businesses that they represent who are open.

 

Overall, we have implemented all of the guidance released by the federal government, CDC and the State of New York. We stand prepared to re-open safely

Cuomo is also urging small businesses and offices to install the air conditioning filters.