For many New York malls, the COVID-19 shutdown ends this week.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that malls in phase four regions can reopen Friday, July 10. Malls will be allowed to reopen if they have installed enhanced heating, ventilation and air conditioning filtration systems.
Certain air filtration systems have been found to be effective at removing COVID-19 particles. The systems installed in malls must have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value rating of 13, or a minimum of 11 if compatibility is a concern.
Malls also must have ventilation protocols in place, such as reduced air recirculation and longer system run times. Filters must be checked frequently.
Rene Patterson, general manager of Fingerlakes Mall in Aurelius, said the mall will reopen Friday. The air filtration system is being upgraded and that work should be completed Thursday.
With malls being allowed to resume operations, Patterson explained that it will benefit several small business owners who have been unable to open in the early phases of the state's economic restart. The state allowed mall stores with exterior entrances to open for business, but the interior sections of malls remained closed.
Fingerlakes Mall was ready to reopen in the second phase of the state's reopening process, but malls weren't allowed to fully open to customers.
"We have a detailed health and safety plan to reopen and we made the financial investment," Patterson said. "We've been ready. It will make a big difference."
The new air filtration system won't be the only change at Fingerlakes Mall. There will be markers reminding customers to maintain social distancing and hand sanitizing stations will be set up throughout the shopping center. The mall has adopted a cleaning and disinfecting program and is following federal and state guidelines. Patterson noted that customers are asked to wear a mask inside the mall.
For the first 30 days after operations resume, Fingerlakes Mall will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Patterson said they will evaluate the operating hours after a 30-day period.
Other malls in central New York, including Destiny USA in Syracuse, will open on Friday.
"We applaud New Yorkers who have been adhering to social distancing guidelines under extremely difficult circumstances over the past four months," said Stephen Congel, CEO of Pyramid Management Group, which owns Destiny USA and other New York malls.
"This has clearly driven the decline of COVID-19 cases across the state. We are ecstatic to welcome them back safely and responsibly to our properties, and pledge to continue to do our part moving forward."
In other news:
• There were 692 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York — 1.2% of the 57,585 tests conducted across the state. The number of total hospitalizations increased by five to 841, and the number of new patient admissions increased by 16 to 84.
Eleven people died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, raising the statewide death toll to 24,944.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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