If you thought it was incredibly risky to have legions of traders gather at the New York Stock Exchange in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, you're not the only one. Intercontinental Exchange is temporarily closing the physical NYSE floors in New York and San Francisco on March 23rd in favor of all-electronic trading. Business and regulatory oversight will carry on during the usual hours -- traders just won't get to use "open-outcry" (that is, the classic yelling) to buy or sell shares.
Intercontinental wouldn't commit to a specific time frame for reopening the physical floors, instead indicating that would "monitor events" before resuming in-person trades.
It's not a surprising move, and might be crucial as officials rush to eliminate any large gathering that could rapidly spread the coronavirus at the heart of the outbreak. At the same time, it could also serve as a giant experiment. What happens if one of the world's largest stock exchanges suddenly went all-digital? While many trades are already electronic, this could make a case for reduced dependence on traditional floors even after life returns to normal.