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Wariness of elevators may stymie office reopening

Workers could balk at returning to high-rises.

August 20, 2020 |

Courtesy Pixabay

A significant number of employees who work in office towers may be reluctant to return to work for fear of contracting the coronavirus in elevators.

That could result in hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of office real estate continuing to go largely unoccupied. Cities and employers have taken steps to reduce risk, but they may not be enough.

For instance, New York City’s Department of Buildings’ COVID-19 task force has slashed in half the maximum capacity of elevators it oversees. But, previous maximum capacity was so high that the new rule is unlikely to provide comfort for users.

The risk of COVID-19 transmission in elevators is unsettled, but the risk may actually be low, experts say. Most elevators are well ventilated, and the short periods that people occupy the enclosed spaces translates into low risk. Wearing masks, not pressing buttons with bare fingers, and facing to the walls would further reduce the chances of contracting COVID-19 in an elevator.

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