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Some JPMorgan Chase dealers are upset that they learned of a coronavirus case in their building from press reports just last week, CNBC learned.
When the bank found that an employee had caught Covid-19 on the fifth floor of its Manhattan headquarters, it quickly asked those who had contact with the employee to quarantine for two weeks. A memo was also sent to workers on that floor on September 13, informing them of the case.
But it told workers elsewhere in its 47-story tower on Madison Ave. 383 nothing of the disease, and that annoyed some of the bank's dealers, said people with direct knowledge of the situation.
"Why did I have to read about it in Bloomberg?" said a trader who refused to be identified, criticizing his employer, referring to an article on the subject.
The episode highlights the tension on Wall Street as companies call their workers back to their offices. Banks say they are taking every precaution to reduce the risk of transmission and that informing all residents of massive buildings about a case will only alert people. However, some employees who are already nervous about getting back to work expect to be told if anyone in their building is infected with Covid-19.
JPMorgan's Global Markets Director Troy Rohrbaugh was interviewed on the matter during a virtual town hall meeting last Thursday. His answer: The bank's policy is to only inform those who have been lying on the ground or who may have had contact with a sick person.
Also, Goldman Sachs only passes coronavirus cases on to employees who have met or worked on the same floor with someone who is sick, according to a person who knows the bank's policies. Last week, Goldman also discovered that at least one employee at its downtown headquarters had the virus. JPMorgan and Goldman spokesmen declined to comment.
On their website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that if a case is confirmed in a company, employers should inform colleagues of their potential exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, but maintain confidentiality under the Disability Act should uphold. "The CDC defines exposure as 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of someone with the coronavirus.
In the early days of the pandemic, JPMorgan and Goldman carried out broader messages about sick employees.
That changed when they started welcoming workers in the past few weeks. With mobile apps or websites, employees now have to confirm that they are healthy before coming to the office. Cases are still few in New York and there is no evidence that Covid-19 was recently transmitted inside a bank.
JPMorgan has told staff that if they are not aware of a coronavirus case, they shouldn't worry. The bank requires employees to wear masks, limits the number of elevator users in 383 Madison to five, and creates one-way traffic in public areas to limit potential transmission.
"Our communication protocols go beyond notifying those who are in close contact," said a JPMorgan manager. "Since we are notifying a large group of employees as a precautionary measure, our cases find their way into the press despite a relatively limited number of cases."