ALBANY — New York shopping malls can reopen Friday, provided they equip their ventilation systems with high-efficiency filters that can block the COVID-19 virus.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the decision Wednesday for malls in Phase 4 regions of the state, which is everywhere but New York City.
Malls larger than 100,000 square feet had been in limbo, denied permission to reopen for weeks after their scheduled opening dates, to the dismay of the companies that own them, the people who work in them and the local governments that rely on the sales tax revenue they generate.
The state was worried about a large number of people gathering in an enclosed space. Mall stores with exterior entrances were allowed to reopen in Phase 2, but interior spaces in malls and the merchants that operate there were not.
Pyramid Management Group, operator of several New York malls including the Capital Region’s largest, Crossgates, had complained repeatedly about the delay, noting that it had prepared extensive protocols to keep shoppers apart and that big box retail stores had been allowed to remain open through the worst of the pandemic.
In a news release Wednesday, Pyramid said:
“The Governor’s announcement was great news for Pyramid’s tenants, their employees, our own employees, and all of the people living in the communities where our properties are located. With proper precautions in place and health and safety a top priority, we look forward to restoring our centers to their dominant positions as the economic drivers of their respective regions.
“We applaud New Yorkers who have been adhering to social distancing guidelines under extremely difficult circumstances over the past four months. 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.
“We look forward to re-opening our properties on Friday across New York state.”
Cuomo said malls will be required to enhance their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems before reopening, with increased inflow of outside air, reduced inside air recirculation, longer run times and frequent checks of filters that must have a rating sufficient to capture the COVID-19 virus.
Pyramid previously had said it already had made such upgrades.
In other COVID-related news Wednesday, Cuomo:
- Said all county fairs would be canceled until further notice.
- Renewed his offer of assistance to states struggling with an onslaught of COVID infections that New York faced early this spring.
- Said New York is reviewing whether to take Delaware off the list of travel quarantine states; the list is determined by a formula that crunches numbers but ignores differences between Delaware and the other 18 states on the list.
- Said New York continues to hold steady or make progress with the pandemic, easing his worry that the state would backslide once it began reopening its economy eight weeks ago. On Tuesday, 57,585 people were tested for the virus; 692 new positives were recorded; 841 COVID patients were being treated in hospitals; and 11 people died.