More banks shut down branch access as COVID-19 spreads

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More banks have begun to close or limit branch access as the novel coronavirus has continued to spread throughout the U.S.

Truist Financial in Charlotte, N.C., KeyCorp in Cleveland, Fifth Third Bancorp in Cincinnati, and PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh all said Thursday that they would limit access at many of their branches to the drive-through window. Truist, Key and PNC said they would also allow branch access by appointment only. Regions Financial in Birmingham, Ala., made a similar announcement late on Wednesday.

The moves to restrict branch access are in response to the recommendations of public health experts. Epidemiologists say that limiting human interaction in the early weeks of the outbreak will help to slow the spread of the virus and prevent the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.

"The challenges all of us face at this time are unprecedented, and PNC is making these adjustments to help keep our customers and employees safe,” Bill Demchak, PNC's chairman, president and CEO said in a press release. “Great consideration went into these decisions and we are confident in our ability to seamlessly deliver through these changes with minimal disruption at the level of service our customers expect and deserve."

PNC said it will temporarily close about a quarter of its roughly 2,400 branches, keeping the rest open by drive-through window or appointment-only. Key will keep branches open to customers via drive-through window or appointment. Truist will operate many of its roughly 2,800 branches via drive-through window only and will keep those without drive-throughs open with enhanced cleaning procedures. And Fifth Third will restrict branch access to the drive-through window or appointment-only.

JPMorgan Chase became the first big U.S. bank to close branches in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The biggest bank in the U.S. announced on Wednesday that it would close 20% of its branches, or about 1,000 locations, and reduce hours at the remaining branches as part of an effort to slow the pace of the pandemic.

Banks have also taken other steps to deal with the spread of the virus. Those include consumer and small business relief programs, limiting non-essential travel by employees and urging employees to work remotely when possible.

As of Thursday afternoon, the U.S. had reported 10,442 cases of the virus, including 150 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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