After being closed for nearly two months, the New York Stock Exchange reopened its trading floor on Tuesday at about 25% capacity.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up more than 500 points on Tuesday, or just over 2%. The S&P 500 climbed 1.2% and the Nasdaq was relatively flat.
Stacey Cunningham, the president of the NYSE, told ABC News’ chief economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis that the decision to reopen was made with the health and safety of employees in mind.
“With the cases in New York City on a decline and with what we’ve learned about how to protect ourselves from COVID-19, we feel like we can create an environment that reduces risk for people to come back into the trading floor and provide the service they’re typically used to providing,” Cunningham said.
Most of the traders will continue working remotely and the small number that return will wear masks as they work and follow strict social-distancing requirements, Cunningham noted.
“We’re only bringing back about 25% of the trading floor population,” she said. “So that enables us to create a new choreography where we won’t have people walking across the trading floor.”
The interior has also been refitted with plexiglass barriers and markings on the trading floor to keep people six feet apart.
Cunningham told Jarvis there will be enhanced medical screenings for workers, including “temperature checks and questionnaires.”
Moreover, all those coming into the NYSE will be asked to avoid public transportation during their commute.
In the first initial phase of reopening, the NYSE will prioritize welcoming back workers from “small, independent firms with sometimes fewer than 20 people that work for them and the majority of their income is tied to their trading on the floor,” Cunningham said.
“I think that’s an important message for anybody considering they’re reopening plans, whether it be in New York or around the country, that if we can focus on those businesses that are impacted the most and allow those that are able to provide a good portion of their services from afar to continue to do so, to limit risk and reduce the spread,” she said.
“These reopening plans aren’t about going back to normal,” she went on. “They’re about taking small steps that start to reopen and restart the economy, but still having important measures in place to protect from the spread because we’re not on the other side of this yet.”
Cunningham said she hopes the reopening of the NYSE will show “there is no keeping us down as New Yorkers” and “as Americans more broadly.”
Still, she said her staff is closely monitoring the ever-evolving health crisis.
“If conditions in New York City or where we are or in other locations where businesses are located start to change, we need to be flexible,” she said. “It’s possible we see a slowdown in the summer and things pick up in the fall and we recognize that we need to start to have plans in place so we can adapt to this new norm.”
The reopening of the iconic trading floor comes as pandemic restrictions across the country begin to ease up and the death rate from COVID-19 in the U.S. appears to be stabilizing.