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PEF calls on governor to improve air filtration in state buildings

Cuomo mandates large malls, recommends private sector businesses install high efficiency filters but silence on doing the same for state agencies

By KATE MOSTACCIO

Before large malls can reopen, they must install air filters capable of trapping COVID-19 particles – a new mandate imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as virus cases spike around the country.

While not a mandate, Cuomo also recommends other businesses and offices across New York State consider installing similar systems.

PEF called on the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) this week to ask if the same filtration precautions would be taken in state facilities to protect returning state workers but has not received a response.

“If New York State is mandating or recommending these filters for large public spaces, businesses and offices, then New York State should follow its own recommendations and ensure adequate air filtration for its own workers,” Spence said. “You must lead by example and this is an opportunity for the governor to do that.”

A COVID-19 virus particle measures approximately 0.125 microns in diameter. Filters with a high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV), such as High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, have been shown to help reduce the virus’ presence in air filtration systems.

PEF Health and Safety staff developed a toolkit for reopening based on American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommendations developed specifically for COVID-19.

Recommendations include improving central air filtration to MERV-13 or higher, in line with Cuomo’s mandate, as well as increasing outdoor air ventilation (using caution in highly populated areas); disabling demand-controlled ventilation and opening minimum outdoor air dampeners to eliminate recirculation; using multistage filtration systems; and keeping systems running longer, even 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Overall, we have been recommending agencies have increased filtration and HVAC controls for COVID control in all of our discussions over returning workers to the workplace,” said PEF Health and Safety Specialist Geraldine Stella. “As we learn more about the virus and how it spreads, it is now clear that aerosolized transmission is a greater threat than contact transmission.”

Indoor air quality issues are nothing new at state buildings across New York and the next issue of the Communicator will feature some of the many instances over the years where state facilities fell short of adequate.

PEF is calling on the governor to hold his own agencies to the same standard he is asking of New York businesses.

The governor said in one of his briefings that these filters, ‘Might be beneficial, so why not do it?’” Spence said. “By that logic, why not do it in state facilities? What the governor is talking about for offices is exactly what we have been asking for. This is a no-brainer.

 

PEF points to this issue in Times Union article:
PEF to Cuomo: Install COVID-blocking air filters for all state workers – July 7, 2020