New Tool in the Fight Against COVID-19: Upgraded AC

July 1, 2020

Upgrading air conditioning systems in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 may become a priority for more businesses—and may even become mandated. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week that the state would require New York malls to install high-quality air systems capable of filtering out the coronavirus before they’ll be allowed to reopen.

These high-efficiency particle air filters, or HEPA filters, have been proven to help reduce COVID-19 particles in the air. Cuomo  called on all businesses and offices to “explore the potential for their air conditioning air filtration systems.” Malls, however, have been the only ones mandated to do so.

“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.

A mall owner told the New York Post that he did not know of any mall owners that had such a system currently in place. Mall owners are also unsure of the potential cost of the state’s new mandate.

Cuomo presented diagrams from NASA studies that showed the coronavirus’ particle has a diameter of about 0.125 microns. HEPA filters can filter particles that are 0.01 micron and above, his diagrams showed.

New York has not yet allowed malls to reopen in the state.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the main way the coronavirus is spread is through person-to-person contact and respiratory droplets released by coughing, sneezing, or talking near another person. Aerosolized droplets from breathing or speaking can also built up in the air over time in poorly ventilated areas. The CDC says it’s possible for a person to become infected by touching a surface and then touching their face, but it’s not considered the main way the virus is transmitted.