Businesses in New York City are likely going to need to upgrade their air conditioning systems in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 if they’re going to reopen, reports say.

This week, New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the state will require malls in the city to install “high quality” air systems that are capable of filtering out the coronavirus before they’ll be allowed to reopen.

High-efficiency particle air filters, commonly known as HEPA filters, have been scientifically proven to reduce the amount of virus particles in the air. And so Cuomo wants business and offices in the city to “explore the potential of air conditioning air filtration systems”. However, only malls have actually been mandated to do so, thus far, CNBC reported.

“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 conference this week.

The insistence on HEPA filters will likely be expensive. One mall owner told the New York Post that he didn’t know of any malls in the city that currently have such a system installed. Moreover, he said he was unsure of the potential cost of installing one.

Justifying the move, Cuomo presented journalists with a diagram from NASA studies that show how a coronvirus particle has a diameter of around 0.125 microns. HEPA filters can block particles measuring just 0.01 microns in size, so they should theoretically offer some protection against the virus.

The mandate is more or less in line with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, which says the main way the coronavirus is transmitted is via person-to-person contact, and by respiratory droplets released by coughing, sneezing or talking near to another person. It also warns that droplets in the air can build up over time in areas that are poorly ventilated, hence the decision by Cuomo to insist on HEPA filters to help prevent this.

The CDC also says the coronavirus can be transmitted by someone touching a surface where the virus is present, and then touching their face, though this is not thought to be the main way it spreads from person to person.

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