Gyms, malls and movie theaters remain closed in the Hudson Valley, putting countless local residents and businesses on the "brink of financial ruin."

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Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced gym, malls and movie theaters won't reopen in Phase 4 of the state's four-step COVID-19 reopening as many expected.

"They claimed these businesses were never tied to the opening of Phase 4. What they told us was absolutely different than what they said over the last three weeks - and never once did they say otherwise," Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said after Cuomo made the announcement. "They’re obligated to explain what the metric, the measurement, the science is. A last-minute, 30-minute phone call is not sufficient."

Cuomo said officials are continuing to study the impact air conditions have on spreading coronavirus at gyms, malls and businesses.

"There are reports malls, bars, certain social clubs with air conditioning, that it may not be cleansing the air of the virus and just recycling the virus, so we're studying that and as soon as we get more information we’ll make a decision," Cuomo said.

The Pyramid Management Group, which operates the Galleria at Crystal Run in Middletown and the Poughkeepsie Galleria stated the air conditioners running in the malls are no different than other air conditioners used at businesses that are allowed to reopen.

"While we can appreciate the State’s concern about the public’s health and safety, any reporting that suggests that HVAC systems within enclosed shopping centers are more likely to distribute the virus than HVAC systems within restaurants, barber shops, office buildings, museums and freestanding retailers already open like Target, Wal Mart, Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx (and others) is simply false. The quality of overall air circulation in our shopping centers, which also benefit from considerable open and airy corridors, is as good or better than those venues that have been allowed to re-open. Numerous health and safety experts support the view that enclosed shopping centers present no greater risk of spreading the virus through their HVAC systems than standalone, freestanding retailers’ locations (see citation below). If anything, the relative risk within our airy, enclosed malls may in fact be lower as we have done more than is necessary based on health and safety recommendations to improve the existing air filtration systems within our shopping centers to bolster the quality of airflow within our centers," Pyramid Management Group said in a statement.

Many assumed gyms, malls and movie theaters would be apart of Phase 4. Seven of New York's 10 regions are in Phase 4. If all goes according to plan, the Hudson Valley will enter Phase 4 on Tuesday, July 7.

“New Yorkers have gone above and beyond to do their part to protect public health. Now, once again, in the dark of night, the state is re-writing the rules and making arbitrary decisions about who can open next and who cannot. It’s absolutely not right and I stand in support of the countless Hudson Valley employers and employees who are on the brink of financial ruin in calling on the state to allow these businesses to reopen as planned," Sue Serino, New York Senate District 41, said in a press release.

Senator Serino claims original guidance issued by the state included gyms, malls and movie theaters in Phase 4.

"According to guidance originally issued by the state, Phase 4 reopening would include malls, gyms and movie theaters. However, late last night, local officials quietly received guidance noting that these businesses would not be opening as originally planned. Instead, they were told media production, including motion picture, TV and streaming service production, as well as ‘low-risk’ indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment could resume operations," Serino said. "While the state has indicated these other businesses can open ‘soon,’ no date, plan or guidelines have been released that would indicate when that would be."

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that air conditioning filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating capable of filtering COVID-19 particles or similar air exchange measures will be mandatory in for a large mall to reopen.

"The primary reason being used for mall closures is that air circulation systems could circulate the coronavirus. If that is the case, why are freestanding restaurants, barber shops, office buildings, museums and large retailers allowed to remain open? The fresh air circulation and filtration systems we have in place are as good or better," the Pyramid Management Group stated. In addition, a short while ago, the State indicated that its team of health officials are looking for an air filter that removes the virus from the air flow and seemed to suggest that malls could not open until that is resolved. None of the retail stores, restaurants and other buildings that have been allowed to open by New York State have such a filter system in place. Why are we being treated differently and inequitably?

The closures impact a countless number of Hudson Valley residents.

"Ridiculous, absurd and illogical ... plus words I cannot use out of respect for all of you," Rockland County Executive Ed Day wrote on Facebook. "The Governor made a big deal out of how he is doing things in lock step with neighboring States. So how is it that the malls in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts - all bordering counties to our Mid-Hudson region - are ALL open? Where do you think our shoppers are going now? Are these States now doing something injurious to shoppers, including our residents who travel there and back to their families in Rockland? Of course not. Did I fail to mention that these three States are in the top five of States with the lowest COVID-19 infection rates? This is a simple failure of the NYS Health Department to recognize a sense of urgency and deal with this last minute air quality "issue" ... which science has to date debunked.

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