Baltimore-area hotels stopped taking reservations or waived cancellation penalties, while banks limited the number of open branches and directed customers to drive-throughs and online, as businesses continued reacting Friday to the new coronavirus outbreak.
The Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor announced on its website that it has temporarily ceased normal operations.
Starting Friday, the hotel is not taking room, restaurant, bar or other reservations until May 15 in light of the COVID-19 virus that has sickened 149 people in Maryland and caused one death in the state. The Hyatt, on Light Street in downtown Baltimore, has canceled all food and beverage operations and events.
“The safety and well-being of our guests and colleagues is always a top priority,” the hotel said on its website.
The hotel expects to resume normal operations May 3, said Donna Marquez, the Hyatt Baltimore’s general manager.
“Guests and third-party travel providers have been informed of the situation, and future reservations have been canceled without penalty and reservations requiring pre-payment will be fully refunded,” Marquez said in an email. “Our hotel continues to work with group and event customers regarding future programs.”
Marriott Bonvoy, which operates the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront in Harbor East, the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel at the Inner Harbor, and other Marriott properties in the region, said it is relaxing cancellation policies. Hotels were still accepting guests.
Banks, too, while remaining open, are changing policies to prevent the spread of the disease.
M&T Bank said it is changing its service approach to limit face-to-face interactions between customers and employees, with an emphasis on social distancing, which is recommended by public health officials.
“The goal is to keep all our branches available while keeping our employees and customers safe,” said Scott Graham, a bank spokesman.
He said branch availability will depend on physical layout of specific branches, customer needs, and customer and employee safety. That means some branches will stay open as usual, some will be open by appointment and others will offer service through ATMs and drive-through windows.
The bank also is temporarily waiving ATM transaction fees for all customers from March 23 through April 30 and will waive early withdrawal fees on all CDs open more than seven days through the end of April.
Kathleen Murphy, president and CEO of the Maryland Bankers Association, said very few of the 1,420 bank branches in the state have temporarily closed and those that have typically have no drive-through access. Branches, however, are still staffed with representatives available by appointment, she said.
“Every bank in Maryland is open for business with access at the drive-through, ATMs, mobile banking, through call centers and more,” Murphy said.
Fulton Bank, the former Columbia Bank that has branches in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties, moved Wednesday to drive-up window and appointment-only for in-person services. An appointment would be needed to meet with a bank representative at a location that does not have a drive-up window.
Capital One also said it has temporarily closed some select branches and all of its Capital One Cafes, locations open to customers and non-customers for help with accounts, access to financial tools, and free Wi-Fi and space to work or drink coffee. All ATMS will stay open.
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Of Capital One’s 58 Maryland branches, four have closed, a spokeswoman said Friday.
“We are committed to ensuring customers continue to have access to critical banking services like teller and cash transactions," the bank said in a statement. “We also strongly encourage customers to use Capital One’s digital tools and other resources for self-service banking and around the clock account access.”
The bank said it has not had a confirmed COVID-19 case in any branch, but “we believe these are the right steps to take to maintain essential banking access while also helping prevent the spread of the virus."
M&T said that despite the changes at some of its branches, the banking system in general and M&T in particular is functioning normally.
“M&T has a long history as a strong, sound, well-funded financial organization," Graham said. "We’ve successfully weathered a variety of significant world and industry events during our history, and we remain well positioned to fully serve our customers and communities during this challenging time.”
Other businesses have taken steps such as moving meetings online.
On Friday, spice maker McCormick & Co. invited its shareholders to sign up for a virtual meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. April 1. The Hunt Valley-based company typically hosts hundreds of shareholders, many from the Baltimore region, at its annual meetings.