The Surprising Job That May Cause Your Coronavirus Risk to Skyrocket

It's not just healthcare professionals putting their safety on the line at work each day.

It's no surprise that certain professions have been hit harder than others by the coronavirus pandemic. While working from home has become the norm for countless industries as the virus continues to spread, many essential employees—including healthcare and food service workers—have had no choice but to report for duty, with many becoming ill with coronavirus along the way. However, there's another surprising profession that may be unduly affected by COVID-19: people working in banks.

On June 28, the CDC issued specific recommendations for bank employees in light of the coronavirus pandemic, including wearing masks, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and adding protective barriers, like transparent shields, to work stations whenever possible. So, what about working in a bank puts employees at particular risk for coronavirus transmission?

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The CDC identified social distancing as one of the major obstacles in terms of keeping bank employees safe amid coronavirus. Since many bank employees have to work one-on-one in close proximity with clients—whether they're taking out money or applying for a mortgage—it's often hard to maintain a six-foot distance. In some states, banks can even ask patrons to remove their masks at their discretion, including for identity verification, potentially putting both customers and employees at risk.

While specific COVID rates in the banking community have not been released, major banking institutions including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Third Bank have all issued reports of infected employees, with JPMorgan even offering $1,000 bonuses to its frontline workers as a form of hazard pay.

white hands passing cash under bank divider window
Shutterstock/Africa Studio

Although the CDC amended its guidelines regarding coronavirus transmission in May, noting that the virus primarily spreads from person to person, transmission via contaminated surfaces is still possible—and that may be especially relevant to people working in banks.

"Banks are a place where the risks of being infected by a virus are high, especially for bank employees," says physician scientist William Li, MD, president of the Angiogenesis Foundation. In addition to bank employees' inability to wash their hands after every transaction, "there are many high-touch surfaces, including cash and coins, that may have been in contact with multiple people," Li says.

In fact, the fear of currency contamination has become so prevalent that some economists believe cash may eventually be largely phased out by many consumers. A June 20 report from MarketWatch reveals that the adoption of touchless payment methods, including PayPal, Cash App, and Venmo, has spiked during the pandemic, and numerous stores have implemented credit-only policies at the same time.

So, what can you do to keep yourself and bank employees safe the next time you have to conduct a transaction? "Controlling the number of customers that can enter at a time; enforcing mask wearing and social distancing; having hand sanitizers available; frequent cleaning; and prohibiting practices like licking fingers to count cash," are all good places to start, according to Li. And if you're wondering what other high-risk places you should be avoiding, check out The 10 Most Dangerous Places You Can Still Get Coronavirus, Experts Say.

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