Photo: Smith Haven Mall

Indoor shopping malls can now reopen Friday in regions that have already entered Phase Four – including Long Island, which entered Phase Four today.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this morning that shopping malls may reopen as early as Friday, as long as they have an HVAC air filtration system with a strong enough MERV rating.

In order to reopen, indoor malls must have an air filtration system with a MERV rating of at least 11, though the state is recommending MERV ratings of 13 or higher.

Air filtration systems with higher MERV ratings are more efficient at filtering out airborne viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In its COVID-19 safety guidelines for office buildings, the CDC recommends an air filtration system with a MERV rating of at least 13 to avoid recirculating air that may be contaminated with the virus.

Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, the closest indoor shopping mall to Riverhead, already has the required air filtration system in place to reopen under the new guidelines, a mall representative said this afternoon. Simon Mall, which operates Smith Haven, plans to put out a statement regarding the reopening soon, according to the representative.

Shopping malls have been closed since March, when Cuomo shut down most nonessential businesses during a widespread lockdown to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Stores at outdoor shopping malls, such as Tanger Outlets in Riverhead, have been allowed to provide curbside pickup since Phase One, which Long Island entered at the end of May. They were allowed to open their doors to indoor shopping with limited capacity in Phase Two, which Long Island entered on June 10.

Gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys remain closed in Phase Four until state health officials can determine how they can reopen safely, Cuomo said.

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Katie Morosky
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a co-publisher of RiverheadLOCAL. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie