NYSE will reopen May 26 with temperature checks and masks for traders

Lucy Bayly

The New York Stock Exchange will reopen May 26, its president announced Thursday, allowing a "subset" of brokers — who will wear masks — back onto the famed trading floor.

Facing a growing public health crisis and increased market volatility, NYSE President Stacey Cunningham had initially pushed back on calls to close the exchange's trading floor as the coronavirus pandemic started to spread across the country in mid-March.

Ultimately, even the biggest symbol of American capitalism proved it was not immune to the disease. The exchange 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 entrances.

"Our reopening will bring a 'new normal' for the NYSE, hopefully helping chart a path that other businesses in densely populated areas might follow," Cunningham said, announcing the news in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal.

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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."

"Designated market makers" who oversee trading for the exchange's 2,200 listed companies will continue to work remotely, and anyone entering the building will not be allowed to use public transportation. Temperature checks will be re-implemented at entrances, Cunningham said.

"We've learned a lot and are in a position to reopen the floor with vital new safety measures, as we begin working together to restart the U.S. economy," she added.

Cunningham has rejected calls to allow the exchange to operate online permanently, but some experts wonder whether that is simply self-preservation.

"If you close it now and it works, why would you need to reopen it?" Edward G. Greene, former general counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission, asked NBC News when the exchange closed in March.