Wall Street employers are again telling New York City workers to prepare for in-person work – with most setting return dates in February – after companies like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase delayed their initial plans when the Omicron surge rocked the Big Apple last month.
New York City, like the rest of the country, has seen COVID-19 cases nosedive over the past two weeks. The Big Apple reported a 70% drop in average cases from 40,150 on January 10 to 12,012 on Monday, according to the New York Times. That’s nearly a 50% drop from the 24,906 cases reported one week ago.
With the light at the end of the tunnel in sight, Wall Street giants began announcing new return dates for employees. Citigroup told its metropolitan-area staff to be prepared to return to the office in at least two days a week starting February 7, a person familiar with the policy told the New York Times.
Citigroup has not released any information on return dates for the rest of its offices and its employees in other parts of the U.S. will still be told to work remotely, according to the source.
Major NYC employers are setting February dates for staff to return to work in person, as COVID-19 cases continue dropping. Above, pedestrians walk outside a seemingly deserted Goldman Sachs building in lower Manhattan on January 18
Citigroup and BNP Paribas have both set February 7 return dates, while Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase both have February 1 return dates. Above, a man walks past a JPMorgan Chase bank in Manhattan on January 13
COVID-19 cases have been dropping across the country over the past two weeks
NYC saw a 70% drop in average COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, going from 40,150 on January 10 to 12,012 on Monday
Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase told employees to come back to the office starting February 1, after both delayed their return ahead of the holidays when COVID-19 cases were out of control ahead of the holidays. Goldman Sachs planned for a January 14 return date before making the change.
Ahead of Citibank’s return date, it will also follow through on its promise to terminate any employees who were not vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-January.
Citigroup said earlier this month that U.S. employees who were not vaccinated by January 14 would be placed on unpaid leave and fired at the end of the month unless they were granted an exemption and accommodation.
BNP Paribas set the same February 7 return date for all U.S. staff after delaying its in-person work plans by about a month due to the Omicron surge.
The retail banking company, which employs about 14,000 people in the U.S., will expect U.S. staff to work at least one day a week, which is similar to its policy late last year before the Omicron variant swept the nation.
“With what happened with Omicron, we wanted to go back into a more conservative mode. So we only have people in the office if there’s a business critical need for them to be in,” Kevin Abraszek, the company’s head of HR change and transformation in New York, told Reuters on Friday.
Employees are required to be vaccinated to work in the office, but Abraszek said those who weren’t vaccinated would be permitted to continue working from home. “I think we’re going to continue to look at that decision and that policy in the early part of this year,” he said.
Abraszek said that the company plans to fill the office at half-capacity following its February return date.
“We were generally skewing around 25% to 30% late last year,” he said. “We’ll probably reach that level and then our hope is that over the course of the spring, and certainly into the summer, that we will get closer to that 50%.”
Abraszek’s estimate is higher than most NYC companies, as only 16% of big employers said they currently have a daily attendance of 50% or more and an additional 7% said they expect in-person attendance to cross that threshold by the end of this month.
About 75% of major NYC employers, including Citigroup (whose offices are pictured above), had to delay their plans for returning to work in person due to the Omicron variant, according to a new survey
Employers were surveyed by the Partnership for New York City, a business advocacy group, between January 10 and 18. About a quarter surveyed said that they could not estimate when their in-person attendance would reach half capacity. The remaining nearly 50% surveyed said that they expect to reach half capacity somewhere between spring and early 2023.
The survey also found that 75% of employers delayed their planned returns to the office due to the Omicron variant’s hold on the city.
Meanwhile, Covid cases across the nation are also seeing the same downward decline as the Big Apple. Dr. Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s This Week Sunday that Omicron cases will likely start dropping throughout the nation by mid-February as the hardest-hit cities experience infection rate dips of up to 64 percent.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert said that the US will likely start to ‘see a turnaround’ in cases and hospitalizations as the highly-contagious variant begins to slow – and that it could signal a gradual return to normal.
‘We would hope that as we get into the next weeks or month, we will see throughout the entire country, the level of infection get to below what I call the ‘area of control,’ the famously gloomy White House COVID expert told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said during an appearance on ABC’s This Week that most US states could peak by mid-February
‘Control means you’re not eliminating it, you’re not eradicating it, but it gets down into such a low level that it’s essentially integrated into the general respiratory infections that we have learned to live with.’
In New York – where parts of the state were paralyzed by Omicron last month – cases have dropped 58% in a fortnight, and 82% week-over-week, Johns Hopkins University data indicates.
The Empire State went from having 79,777 cases January 9 to recording 27,643 cases Saturday, representing a 54 percent drop during the past two weeks, according to New York Times data.
Deaths related to the virus spiked 71 percent in the past two weeks; more than 62,600 New Yorkers have died from Covid since the pandemic began.
Fauci said that while the numbers are moving in the right direction for the bulk of the nation, the situation varies state-by-state. He again pushed for Americans to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors, calling the measures the best lines of defense against the variant.
‘Things are looking good,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to get overconfident, but they look like they’re going in the right direction right now.’