COVID update: Malls get conditional OK; county fairs cancelled

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Malls with enhanced air filters can open Friday, but county fairs are cancelled this year, and schools will not get word on whether New York state will let them reopen until at least the first week of August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

Cuomo said on Wednesday that a state panel will give its final guidance to K-12 public and private schools by Monday, then require them to submit their reopening plans for review by July 31. A decision on whether to reopen will be made Aug. 1-7.

Cuomo dismissed a statement Tuesday by President Donald Trump that schools must reopen or risk loss of federal support. His staff said federal funds total about $3 billion of the $70 billion the state spends each year on public education, and he said reopening is a state decision.

County fairs are cancelled until further notice. That includes the Boonville Fair, which serves as the Oneida County fair each year. The decision follows the governor’s announcement Monday that this year’s state fair in Syracuse is cancelled.

As for malls, they can reopen if their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are able to meet a proscribed level of filtration believed to filter out the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. An industry standard known as Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value of 11 or higher is needed. Other ventilation protocols include increased outdoor air, reduced air circulation, longer system run times and frequent filter checks.

The decision prompted an announcement from the company that runs Sangertown Square mall in New Hartford, Oneida County’s largest retail complex, that it will reopen Friday. Stores that have their own separate entrances have already gotten clearance to open.

“We applaud New Yorkers who have been adhering to social distancing guidelines under extremely difficult circumstances over the past four months,” Pyramid Management Group Chief Executive Officer Stephen Congel said in the statement. “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.”

Pyramid also runs Destiny USA in Syracuse, Salmon Run Mall in Watertown, Crossgates Mall at Albany, Walden Galleria at Buffalo and several other major centers in New York and New England.

The state announcements came as measures of the pandemic largely held steady on Wednesday statewide and locally. The state reported 692 new confirmed cases and 11 deaths. The statewide positive-test rate was 1.2 percent.

In Oneida County, 14 new COVID-19 cases and one death were confirmed by lab tests in the 24 hours that ended at noon, the county announced. The person who died was a resident of a nursing home. So far, 100 county residents have died with COVID-19.

Twenty-five county residents were being treated for COVID-19 at hospitals in the county, including two at Rome Memorial, where one was a nursing home resident, and 23 in the Mohawk Valley Health System, where 13 were from nursing homes.

The county’s risk rating by the Harvard Global Health Institute improved one category to yellow from orange, as determined by the rate of daily new cases per 100,000 people on a rolling seven-day average basis, which it put at 8.3. A previous orange, or second-worst level, had been given since the county reported a cluster of some 53 residents who work at an aluminum plant in Montgomery County.

Oneida County announced the following possible public exposures to people with COVID-19 and recommended anyone at these locations at the respective times monitor themselves for symptoms:

• Lowe’s on Horatio Street in Utica, noon to 1 p.m. July 1. Self-monitor through July 15.

• Price Chopper on Genesee Street in Utica, 10-11 a.m. July 3. Self-monitor through July 17.

• Wal-Mart on Horatio Street in Utica, 11:15 a.m. to noon July 3. Self-monitor through July 17.

• BYO Laundromat on Leland Avenue in Utica, noon to 1 p.m. July 5. Self-monitor through July 19.

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