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NY-NJ pause indoor dining, malls asked to install corona filters

New York: malls will need high quality air systems that can filter out the coronavirus before they will be allowed to reopen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

“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,” Cuomo said at a press briefing.

High efficiency particulate air filters, or HEPA filters, have been shown to help reduce the presence of Covid-19 in the air, according to a presentation from Cuomo.

The coronavirus’ particle has a diameter of about 0.125 micron, he said, pointing to recent studies. HEPA filters are designed to filter particles that are 0.01 micron and above, Cuomo said, a figure he based on a previous NASA study on HEPA filtration.

New York has not allowed malls to reopen in the state yet, Cuomo said. He said the state recommends all businesses and offices “explore the potential for their air conditioning air filtration system.”

New Jersey allowed malls to reopen on Monday while following the same health precautions required of other stores but without advanced filtration systems, according to the state’s guidelines.

Cuomo has allowed other businesses to reopen without installing high-end filtration systems. So far, indoor retail, except for malls, indoor and outdoor dining and some office spaces have reopened in different regions of the state with reduced capacity.

New York City is expected to begin on July 6 its next phase of reopening.

Indoor dining has proven problematic in other states where cases are rising, Cuomo said. Meanwhile, outdoor dining has so far worked well across the state, including in New York City, he added.

Cuomo said the state is reviewing the data and talking with local business owners but could decide to postpone indoor dining at restaurants. The state will provide a final decision by Wednesday, he said.

New Jersey’s governor said he would postpone that step indefinitely as virus cases surge across the U.S.

Both governors, who lead the two hardest-hit COVID states in America, cited evidence of heightened risk in other states from enclosed spaces. Both Cuomo and Gov. Phil Murphy also pointed to overcrowding and social distancing violations in some restaurants and bars in their states as reasons to reevaluate.

“The carelessness of one establishment can completely undo the good work of many others. We will not tolerate outlier bars and restaurants, and frankly patrons, who think the rules don’t apply to them,” Murphy said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of days, it’s a matter of weeks. And again, we have enormous sympathy (for restaurant owners), but the alternative here is worse and unacceptable.”

New Jersey had been set to reopen indoor dining on Thursday; that will no longer happen and no new timeline has been set.

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