How masks became the norm on the NYSE trading floor

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How masks became the norm on the NYSE trading floor

Not everyone enjoyed working from home during the COVID lockdowns. Jonathan Corpina, senior managing partner at Meridian Equity Partners, a floor brokerage on the New York Stock Exchange, was among those chomping to get back onto the trading floor. Two months after coming back, Corpina says COVID precautions have become second nature. 

"I put my mask on in the morning and I only take it off to sip water and to eat lunch," said Corpina, speaking at a seminar organized by the Systemic Risk Centre in London this week. "It’s become so embedded in what I do that sometimes I get off the train and get in my car and start driving and I’m still wearing the mask."

The NYSE sent everyone home in mid-March when two employees tested positive for COVID-19. It then went fully digital until it reopened in late May. Corpina said he felt "disconnected" when he and his team of around 15 brokers were at home. When they returned he said he felt confident in his safety, and had "no doubts about going back to the floor." 

The floor he returned to was very different to the pre-COVID world. Alongside temperature checks and deep cleans, employees are compelled to keep masks on at all times. They must also ensure social distancing. "There's a zero tolerance policy on masks," said Corpina. "You will get tapped on the shoulder and asked to leave if you're not wearing a mask." 

Corpina said the NYSE employs floor monitors to enforce the new rules. If he gets overexcited about a market move and steps too close to other people on the floor, he gets another tap on the shoulder. "We have referees to make sure we're social distancing," he explained.

The precautions seem to be working. - The NYSE hasn't had any COVID cases (as far as we know) since everyone went back, and wearing a mask has seemingly become like wearing socks for those compelled to do so. However, Corpina said something has also been lost as a result of the new rules: "Personal conversations have become very difficult to have."

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Photo by Chapman Chow on Unsplash

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