: Exclusive: Wall Street cancels plans to host Miami parties at key real-estate conference as COVID cases surge

United States

Wall Street’s biggest banks are shutting down plans to host parties in Miami starting this weekend during a major commercial real-estate event, due to concerns about soaring COVID-19 cases.

Bank of America Corp. BAC, +3.92%, Citigroup Inc. C, +0.78%, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS, +3.07% and other top bank sponsors of a three-day commercial real-estate gathering are canceling soirees set for the sidelines of the industry event, according to people with direct knowledge of their plans.

The shift in plans comes only days before the CRE Finance Council’s glitzy winter commercial real-estate conference is slated to kick off Sunday at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. While the annual gathering is relatively tight-knit and small, attendance-wise, the CRE Finance Council represents the massive $ 5 trillion commercial and multifamily real-estate finance industry.

The conference still is expected to go on, with vaccines and masks required for attendees and a keynote luncheon scheduled with former New York Yankee Derek Jeter. Only now, conference-goers might need to buy their own drinks and make dinner plans, with most evening networking events, including those at neighboring hotels, canceled.

Loews and the CRE Finance Council didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Several Wall Street financiers and investors told MarketWatch they have been encouraged by employers in recent days to make their own decisions about whether or not to attend the event.

Daily reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. hit more than 1 million on Monday, the highest one-day case count during the course of the pandemic. During the surge, New York and some other big cities have been forced to suspend public transit service as workers call out sick, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The more-contagious omicron variant, while often producing milder symptoms, has been forcing several big banks and swaths of Corporate America to again delay plans to recall more staff to the office, nearly two years into the pandemic.

The tentative return to annual industry conferences has been a reprieve for a travel and leisure industry battered by the pandemic.

Before COVID, the annual commercial real-estate gathering typically would attract hundreds to Miami in January, giving the industry a chance to talk shop, cut deals and hatch alliances at one of Miami’s famed beachfront hotels, many of which they helped finance.

Elsewhere, the mega CES 2022 technology conference happening in Las Vegas this week will be cut back by a day due to health protocols, as many of the biggest companies pulled out of in-person appearances.

Stocks have rallied since President Joe Biden recently promised to avoid a return of dramatic 2020-style restrictions, particularly with COVID vaccines and boosters widely available for adults in the U.S.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.59% has hit fresh records on the first two trading days of 2022, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.06% hit a new record Monday..

Read: This real estate debt is roaring back to fund commercial properties thrown into flux by pandemic