JP Morgan hosts virtual health care conference amid omicron concerns

The event is one of the biggest gatherings for health care professionals

JPMorgan Chase JPM -0.87% & Co. is moving its big annual health care conference in San Francisco to a virtual setting, telling participants the spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 had made the in-person gathering too risky. 

The bank’s annual gathering is one of the biggest events for global health care professionals and CEOs, and it is often full of deal making. This year’s event, scheduled for the middle of January, will be the 40th version. The move comes after several biotechnology companies pulled out of planned in-person appearances, which were first reported on Tuesday by Stat News. 

"The health and safety of our clients and employees is of the utmost importance and given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have made this decision," the bank said in an email to participants. 


An empty sidewalk is seen in front of a temporarily closed JPMorgan Chase & Co. bank branch in New York on Friday, April 10, 2020. The company's health care conference will be virtual this year. (Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The bank had already pushed back against concerns about rising crime in San Francisco but found it harder to pull in hundreds of attendees who oversee the world’s health care when rising Covid cases were forcing countries to implement new travel restrictions and companies to pause plans to reopen their offices

"We were not only hopeful to meet in-person but also understand how much this conference means to the San Francisco community, which we fully support," the bank said in the email. 

Some executives slated to attend were concerned about the industry setting a bad example by gathering in person with Covid cases on the rise, and investor interest was lighter than in previous years, according to people familiar with the matter. 


Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., speaks during the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. The company will host a virtual health care conference this year.  ( Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Many in the industry were wary of a repeat of the February 2020 Biogen Inc. meeting in Boston that spread Covid to thousands of people in the U.S. and abroad. 

The JPMorgan event typically draws hundreds of health care companies and thousands of attendees. 

The bank had been telling companies it wasn’t going to allow virtual presentations and that anyone looking to be a part of the conference would have to attend in person. 


Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., poses for a photograph outside the Congress Center on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The company will host a virtual heal (Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The highly contagious variant Omicron is disrupting corporate America’s attempts to return to normal. 

JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon had been among the more aggressive about bringing people back to the office and traveling. But earlier this week, the bank said anyone going into its New York offices would have to be vaccinated. 

This article first appeared in the Wall Street Journal