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 particle 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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the coronavirus is thought to spread primarily through person-to-person contact, when an infected person produces respiratory droplets by coughing, sneezing or talking in close contact with other people. It's possible someone can become infected by touching a surface and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes, but that's not considered to be the main way the virus is transmitted, the CDC says.
Some epidemiologists say the virus also appears to spread through exhaled air when people talk or breathe, known as aerosols, according to Nature.
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, which will allow for indoor dining and personal care services such as nail salons, spas, massage parlors, and tattoo and piercing facilities with limited occupancy.
Cuomo said on Monday, however, that he's concerned about the city's enforcement of previous reopenings and that it has experienced a lack of compliance when it comes to social distancing and mask wearing, he said.
"You can see it in pictures, you can see it if you walk down the street, you can see the crowds in front of bars, you can see the crowds on street corners. It is undeniable," Cuomo said.
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.
"This is a real issue. Our reopenings have worked very well. We're not going backwards; we're going forwards," Cuomo said. "A lot of other states have actually had to go backwards."
To illustrate the state's progress suppressing the coronavirus outbreak, Cuomo appeared in front of a sculpture of a mountain that represented the curve of the outbreak, saying it was "the mountain that New Yorkers climbed," reaching the peak in the first 42 days. On Sunday, the state reported 853 people currently hospitalized with Covid-19, down from a peak of more than 18,800.
"Do you know what this is? This is the mountain," Cuomo said while standing in front of the green sculpture.
He has previously called the state's outbreak a mountain, referring to the shape of newly reported Covid-19 cases on a chart. Earlier in June, Cuomo said he was going to declare the "Covid mountain" the highest mountain in the state of New York.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to show that HEPA filters are designed to filter particles that are 0.01 micron and above, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He based the figure on a previous NASA study on HEPA filtration.