PEF To Governor Cuomo: Install COVID-Blocking Air Filters ‘For All’ State Workers
(ALBANY, NEW YORK) - One of New York State’s largest Public Labor Unions is calling on Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to require buildings that house State Workers to meet the same air-filtration standards that the Governor recently said he will impose on large malls and potentially other private-sector businesses.
The Public Employees Federation (PEF) this week called on the Governor's Office of Employee Relations to mandate the installation of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to protect Employees returning to offices as New York re-emerges from a months-long “pause” on business operations to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“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,” PEF President Wayne Spence said in a news release. “You must lead by example, and this is an opportunity for the Governor to do that.”
Cuomo last week said large malls would be required to install HEPA filters before they could reopen.
Jason Conwall, a Cuomo spokesman, said filters are already installed in buildings owned and managed by the Office of General Services, which functions as the state's property manager.
The number of State Workers working in leased spaces was not immediately available.
PEF Staff have developed a tool kit for reopening and provided several recommendations to the administration on improvements the Union contends should be made to protect Workers.
Those include: Improving central-air filtration to MERV-13 or higher, which capture particulates similar in size to the coronavirus; Increasing outdoor air ventilation; Disabling "demand-controlled" ventilation, which automatically adjusts to factors such as a change in the number of people in a given space; Opening minimum outdoor air dampeners to eliminate re-circulation; Using multi-stage filtration systems; and Keeping air 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,” PEF Health and Safety Specialist Geraldine Stella said. “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.”
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