Four major bank branches in Half Moon Bay are open, after months of sporadic closures prompted by changing shelter-in-place rules and, at one site, a COVID-19 case.

Though banks are encouraged by a surge in online banking since the start of the pandemic, they are hard-pressed to completely replace in-person transactions. For the Coastside, where brick- and-mortar branches are fewer and farther between than elsewhere on the Peninsula, the handful of buildings in Half Moon Bay remain a lifeline for many residents.

There have been at least three bank closures on the Coastside since the first shelter-in-place order took effect in March.

Most recently, Wells Fargo temporarily closed its Half Moon Bay branch between Sept. 1 and Sept. 3 for deep-cleaning after an employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to a spokesman. The store has since reopened. It was the second such

closure for the branch since the early weeks of the pandemic.

On March 19, U.S. Bank closed its Half Moon Bay branch as part of an effort to consolidate its operations, opting to keep the Pacifica branch open. The Half Moon Bay branch reopened on June 22.

Though open, operations at all local banks remain indefinitely altered. Plexiglass barriers are erected. Signs redirect customers to the drive-through window. And advisers spend more time teaching customers how to use their bank’s online platforms.

In fact, banks have been investing heavily in their digital tools, adding more features monthly.

About 70 percent of all in-person transactions can be done on the U.S. Bank mobile app, according to Heather Kesner, the bank’s Bay Area spokeswoman.

Despite the uptick in the number of users transacting online or on the app, many U.S. Bank customers still prefer the personalized interaction with familiar staff, especially for sensitive financial matters. This was true early in the pandemic when customers came into the branches with questions about the federal government’s Small Business Administration loans and mortgage relief program, Kesner said.

“We want customers to continue to have that trusted adviser in their local community that they’ve built a relationship with over the years as that go-to individual,” Kesner said.

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