The iconic floor of the New York Stock Exchange will start its reopening process the day after Memorial Day, with a limited number of brokers able to return, the president of the exchange wrote in an op-ed.
Stacey Cunningham said in the article for the Wall Street Journal that through "thoughtful, measured reopening plans," the more than 200-year-old institution would allow the familiar sites of trading to come back after being shuttered for more than two months.
The stock exchange had switched to all-electronic trading on March 23 after an employee and a trader tested positive, despite the introduction of social distancing protocols, restricted access, and temperature checks at entry points.
The "subset of floor traders" who will be allowed back to the famed floor starting May 26 will have to go through different measures to ensure that the exchange remains as clean as possible. Cunningham said in the op-ed that after the reopening, "our reopened floor will look different from the iconic images so many have grown accustomed to seeing televised throughout the trading day."
The smaller number of traders will be required to wear protective masks and obey social distancing guidelines, Cunningham said, and a new floor layout will define where each person is allowed to work.
All who will be back on the floor must also avoid public transportation, and will be screened and have their temperatures taken while entering the building on 11 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. Any who do not pass the checks won't be allowed to enter until they test negative for COVID-19 or self-quarantine along federal guidellines, Cunningham said.
"Many of these brokers, who execute trades on behalf of clients from all over the world, are independent, small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, and all of their income is tied to the work they do on the trading floor," Cunningham wrote. "I hear from them nearly every day as they ask when they can get back to work, despite their knowledge of the risk."
No traders or employees will be required to come in, Cunningham said, "but the stream of calls and emails I’ve received suggests it will be hard to keep them away."
The "designated market makers," who oversee trading for exchange's 2,200 listed companies, will continue to work remotely, along with most other employees. The rest of the building will also remain empty overall.
Cunningham said that reopening the floor is key to fairer prices and reducing volatility in the market.
"For the NYSE and the nation as a whole, it’s important to approach reopening with realistic expectations. While our plan is designed to reduce risk, it cannot eliminate it," Cunningham wrote. "Until there’s a vaccine for the virus, it’s likely that increased activity will bring new cases. Infections may occur as people venture back to work. Our approach is designed to identify possible cases quickly, which will protect against a broader spread and allow our floor to continue operating."