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Capital One to require vaccinations for office return

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Capital One in Wilmington has yet again postponed its reopening date to November. The company has 2,000 employees in the First State. DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON — Capital One, the financial giant which still maintains a heavy downtown Wilmington presence, will be requiring employees who return to the office to be vaccinated come this November.

The policy applies to 2,000 employees in the First State as well as thousands more across the country, as well as all contractors, vendors and visitors. It is by no means a mandate, however, as unvaccinated employees will be allowed to continue to work from home.

“I had been encouraged by high vaccination rates among our associates and hoped that, combined with on-site protocols, we could ensure a safe September reopening without a vaccine requirement,” CEO Rich Fairbanks said in a prepared statement. “However, the highly-contagious delta variant has put a damper on our aspirations.”

Capital One also pushed back its reopening date from Sept. 7 to Nov. 2, and its vaccine policy will be in place through the first quarter of 2022. But it is unclear when it will end, as Capital One officials have not yet decided on how long the reopening phase will end or on its long-term vaccination policy.

The Virginia-based financial corporation originally announced in late June a gradual reopening process, optimistic that America was turning a corner on the COVID-19 pandemic with rising vaccination rates. However, as rates stalled, Fairbanks said it was imperative to keep staff healthy.

“We did not come to these decisions lightly,” he added. ‘I know that some associates are unvaccinated at this time and may be disappointed or frustrated by this announcement. But a key prerequisite for a successful return is our associates having confidence in the safety of our work environment. [This] announcement today is in service of that objective.”

Capital One’s announcement comes within days of major companies across the country deciding vaccine mandates for some or all of its workers, such as Walmart, Tyson Foods and United Airlines. 

In Delaware, Trinity Health, which operates St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, ChristianaCare and Nemours have all announced similar mandates for its staff. All three hospitals will terminate employees who do not receive the vaccine by their deadlines.

Capital One associates who are vaccinated are strongly encouraged to return to the office during the reopening phase, but are not required to return. The company has also suspended all nonessential business travel, both international and domestic, at the start of the pandemic, and that moratorium has yet to be lifted.

This announcement also raises more questions for downtown Wilmington’s small businesses who depend heavily on the financial and law firms stationed in the city. Many restaurants who serve lunches to corporations or juries have struggled to reclaim much of their lost business in the last 18 months. A further delay in office workers’ return coupled with increased numbers of remote workers who have chosen to remain unvaccinated would impact the available number of downtown customers. 

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