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UPDATED: Capital One and Genworth delay return-to-office plans because of delta variant; now requiring vaccinations for office access
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UPDATED: Capital One and Genworth delay return-to-office plans because of delta variant; now requiring vaccinations for office access

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Two of the Richmond region’s largest employers are delaying plans to return to the office and are now requiring employees to be vaccinated when they work in the office because of the rapid spread of the more contagious delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Capital One Financial Corp., the Richmond region’s largest private employer, said Wednesday that workers can return to the office under a hybrid work model starting Nov. 2, rather than its previous plans to come back Sept. 7. And when the employees at the financial services and credit card giant return to the office, those workers will be required to be vaccinated.

Henrico County-based Genworth Financial, which has thousands of employees in Virginia, also said it will push back reopening its offices from Sept. 7 until at least October. Moving forward, Genworth will require employees to be fully vaccinated to work in its offices.

“We understand that some individuals may have qualifying circumstances that prevent them from getting the vaccine, so our current plan is to allow those colleagues to continue working remotely,” Genworth spokesperson Amy Rein said.

Richard Fairbank, Capital One’s founder and CEO, said in a letter sent to employees that the company has prioritized the health and safety of its workers since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’s why we moved early and quickly to remote work. And it’s why we have been careful and cautious about reopening,” Fairbank said in the letter. “Unfortunately, we have watched the delta variant tear a hole through the steady course of improvement in COVID-19 outcomes that we had been experiencing. As a result, we have made some modifications to the reopening plans that we announced on June 29,” affecting all U.S.-based office employees.

In the Richmond area, McLean-based Capital One employs about 13,000 workers at its campus in the West Creek office park in Goochland County, offices in Henrico County and data center in Chesterfield County. It also has two Capital One Cafe banking locations.

As part of the June announcement, Capital One had said it was planning to become a “hybrid work company going forward,” with employees spending part of their time working at home and part of their time working at the office.

After the Nov. 2 date, employees who have not been vaccinated “should continue to work from home and will be supported in doing so,” the company said.

That policy will extend at least through the first three months of 2022, during what the company described as an “initial reopening period.”

Employees going to Capital One offices will be required to show proof they have been vaccinated. The company said all contractors, vendors and visitors to Capital One sites must also be vaccinated.

“Because the future course of the pandemic is still uncertain, we have not yet decided on the exact duration of the initial reopening period or our long-term vaccination policy,” the company said. “It is possible we will require vaccinations for all office-based associates after the conclusion of our initial reopening period, subject of course to appropriate medical and religious accommodations.”

As of late July, about 86% of Capital One employees who responded to an internal survey said they had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Fairbank said in the letter to employees that the company “did not come to these decisions lightly.”

“When I shared our initial hybrid approach in June, our plan was to reopen our campuses in September and welcome back as many Capital One associates as possible,” Fairbank said.

“All of us have missed our friends and colleagues, and my hope was that all of us could experience a fall reopening together. 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,” he said. “However, the highly-contagious delta variant has put a damper on our aspirations.”

Other companies in the Richmond region say they are continuing to monitor the surge of infections caused by the delta variant to determine return-to-work plans.

Richmond-based Atlantic Union Bank, for instance, still expects a phased approach to reopening its corporate office, but “we are no longer assuming that the reopening will begin right after Labor Day. The timing is still being determined at this time,” spokesperson Beth Shivak said.

“Since many areas in our footprint are areas of substantial or high transmission, we have revised our face mask requirements policy to require masks for all teammates while in the workplace, regardless of vaccination status, effective Monday, Aug. 9. At this time, we do not require teammates to get vaccinated,” she said.

Capital One and Genworth join other companies across the country delaying plans for returning to the office.

Amazon has pushed back its return-to-office date for tech and corporate workers until January. The company had previously set a Sept. 7 return date.

Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp also are pushing back their return plans this fall. Wells Fargo, for instance, sent a memo to employees last week saying the company is aiming for a phased return starting Oct. 4, a month later than planned.

Other companies that have postponed reopening plans include Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Lyft.

Microsoft also has reversed course and will now require employees to be fully vaccinated to enter the company’s U.S. offices and other work sites, starting next month.

Microsoft’s new vaccine policy follows similar moves this month by other employers, including Google and Facebook. Disney and Walmart also announced vaccine mandates but for their white-collar workers.

jblackwell@timesdispatch.com

(804) 775-8123

ggilligan@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6379

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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