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Banks adapt to COVID-19 pandemic

ELKINS — Area banks are exercising precautions to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to provide various forms of service to customers.

Mountain Valley Bank President Richard Harvey said MVB’s lobbies are currently closed, while appointments are available by phone call.

“What we’re asking them to do is call ahead for an appointment. We’ll set that up and take proper precautions for their benefit as well as our employees,” said Harvey.

MVB closed its lobbies beginning on Mar. 20, while drive-thru lanes remained open during regular business hours. The bank is also continuing to offer its services online.

“We have full services online with our internet banking and mobile banking products. Our ATMs are fully stocked and operational,” Harvey said. “We have Visa debit cards, and those serve as ATM cards as well as point-of-sale cards for merchants that are still open.”

“We also have an easy access account line where you can call in and get all the information on your account that you need.”

In terms of employee safety, MVB has provided masks and gloves to employees, stocked up on hand sanitizer and has regularly sanitized surfaces that are touched numerous times per day.

“We’re open; your money is safe. I speak for all Elkins banks here — we’re all very strong banks — very sound banks. Your money is safe, and there’s no need to withdraw large amounts of cash. We’re going to continue to be open, and FDIC insurance is still in full force through these difficult times,” he said.

Hugh Hitchcock, president and CEO of Davis Trust Company, said the bank’s lobbies are currently closed and encourages customers to call and make an appointment if they need inside the bank for any reason.

“We’re working very hard to screen them on the call if somebody does call,” said Hitchcock.

“We want to be able to meet their needs, but we want to have them call first.”

Between its two locations and four ATMs, Davis Trust has a total of 11 drive-thru lanes in Elkins, which are all currently operational.

“We’re open for business,” said Hitchcock. “We also have an external walk-up at our main bank. The customers can park in the front of the bank and walk into our external walk up, which is adjacent to our drive-thru.”

Davis Trust offers online and mobile banking, which, according to Hitchcock, allow customers to complete practically any service online.

“We certainly encourage our customers to use those services,” he said.

According to Hitchcock, Davis Trust is utilizing good hygiene practices, such as wiping down surfaces and practicing social distancing to keep employees and customers safe by limiting the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re providing all the services we possibly can, and we want to let the customers know that we’re open for business and that the banking system is safe.”

“Their funds and their accounts with us are safe; they’re FDIC insured, and we’re doing our very best to meet their needs in this very very difficult time,” Hitchcock said.

Citizens Bank of West Virginia has closed its lobbies with limited access, while drive-thru lanes remain open for all transaction needs and business hours remain the same.

“Customers may call us for loan and other financial requests; in most cases, we are able to quickly and efficiently service our customers by phone and complete the transactions remotely. Appointments may be made to access safe deposit boxes or meet with a banking specialist,” Kathy Leombruno, senior vice president and marketing officer at Citizens wrote in an email to the Inter-Mountain.

“The decision to close was not made lightly. Our main priority during this rapidly, evolving situation is the health, safety and well-being of our employees, customers and communities.”

“Citizens cares greatly about their customers and we are here to help those affected by COVID-19. We have measures in place to offer relief to those experiencing hardships due to the loss of income during this pandemic. If our customers have been impacted, they may feel free to reach out to us,” said Leombruno.

Leombruno noted that Citizens is taking the well-being of its staff very seriously.

“We are strongly encouraging that employees don’t cascade into other work areas and that lunch (and) breaks are taken with social distancing in mind. We have increased cleaning and sanitization of our offices, ATMs, and drive-thrus as well as provided employees with best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” she said, adding that the bank has established procedures for employees to stay home when sick or have had contact with symptomatic individuals.

“By doing all this, we aim to support public health and keep our team connected,” she said.

“We can’t say that adjusting to the situation we are now in because of COVID-19 has been easy on any of us. But we get it – we have to do our part to flatten the curve. In the meantime, please know we are all here to continue providing service to you. We have all been inspired and pleased by the cooperation of our staff and customers during this difficult time,” she said.

Brad Schumacher, branch manager at the Elkins Huntington National Bank location, told The Inter-Mountain that appointments are available for customers who call, while the bank’s lobby is closed otherwise.

“We will meet with appointment only as long as they do not have flu-like symptoms and they haven’t been out of the country,” said Schumacher, noting that Huntington’s drive-thru is open during its regular hours of availability, and online and mobile banking options are available free to customers.

“They can do almost everything that they want online that they can do at the branch-even making deposits by check. If they need a deposit cashes, they can do that through the ATM machine,” he said.

Schumacher stated that Huntington has several programs for both consumer and banking customers.

“There are pass-a-payment programs for both consumer loans and mortgages and also businesses loans as well,” he said.

Schumacher noted that gloves and hand sanitizer have been provided to tellers, while surfaces within the bank are wiped down several times per day in order to keep them clean and bacteria-free.

“We’re just here to help people still-to get through these troubling times, and we’re just trying to do our part to contain the virus and make sure it doesn’t get any worse,” said Schumacher.

Tiffany Mitchell, assistant to the president and CEO at Freedom Bank, stated that the bank’s lobby is currently closed, while appointments are available.

“We’re even trying to really limit those,” said Mitchell. If it’s something like a loan or an account opening, we’re trying to get as much information as we can over the phone and get the documents prepared before (customers) even come to the branch,” she said, adding that Freedom is also setting up small tables in its foyers in order to prevent any potential spread of COVID-19 farther into the branch.

“If they’re able to come through the drive-thru, we’re letting them do that, but if it’s something where they absolutely must come in, we’re trying to limit them to the foyer of the bank without having to come totally into the bank,” she said.

Freedom is also instituting extended drive-thru hours on weekdays, which now last from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Friday, while Saturday hours will still last from 8 a.m. until noon.

Freedom Bank also offers online and mobile banking options to customers at www.freedombankwv.com and through its mobile app, while also offering bank-by-phone at 877-222-6537.

According to Mitchell, Freedom is taking everything on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re here; we’re ready to help our customers. We know that a lot of our customers are now without jobs. We treat all of our customers individually, so we ask them to contact us as soon as they can. We are more than happy and more than willing to work with our customers,” she said.

In terms of employee safety, the bank’s branches and the personal workspaces within them are being disinfected daily while employees are also practicing social distancing.

“We have plenty of hand sanitizer around. The girls are using gloves sometimes to handle transactions through the drive-thru,” said Mitchell.

“We want to reassure our customers that their money is safe; I can’t stress that enough,” she said. “The banks are strong. Community banks are strong. This is just an unprecedented time that we’re going through.”

“Their money is insured. Nothing is wrong with their money; nothing is wrong with the banking system as a whole,” said Mitchell.

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