Just one day after their reopening, global automobile company Ford temporarily shut down two of its North American factories after several of its employees tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Chicago Assembly plant, which makes some of Ford’s more profitable models such as the new 2020 Ford Explorer, Lincoln Aviator and Police Interceptor SUVs, was shut down on May 19, after two employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said a disinfection team visited the facility that same day.
“We also deep cleaned and disinfected the work area, equipment, team area and the path that the team member took,” Felker stated.
The plant, located on the city’s Southeast Side, reopened on May 20. However, it was once again shut down later that same day, due to what Felker said was a “supplier shortage.”
Felker declined to identify the supplier.
In her statement, Felker added that workers who are known to have been in close contact with the infected individuals at the Chicago Assembly plant have been notified and have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. (Related: Moody’s warns new coronavirus wave will plunge US economy into depression.)
According to the company, the affected employees at the Chicago plant worked in a separate building about a mile from the main assembly line. However, because parts from that building were needed at the main assembly line, the entire complex had to be shut down.
In addition to closing its Chicago plant, Ford also closed its Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19 that very same day. This facility, much like the Chicago plant, also manufactures one of the company’s more profitable models, the F-150 pickup truck.
Felker, in a text, noted that the infected individuals from both locations did not contract the virus at the assembly plants.
“It is important to note that due to incubation time, we know these employees did not contract COVID-19 while at work. Our protocols are in place to help stop the spread of the virus,” Felker said.
Both Chicago and Dearborn locations reopened on May 20.
According to a report by CBS, while several Ford employees have stated that they are “grateful” for being allowed to go back to work, many employees still feared for their safety.
“I’m worried right now,” Timothy Shy, an employee at Ford’s Chicago plant, said in a CBS interview, referring to the recent infection.
Ford, which shut its North American facilities back in March, has since implemented several key changes in its facilities during its reopening, imposing new safety measures such as temperature checks for all employees who enter the building; mandating the use of face masks and face shields; and imposing social distancing rules along their factories’ assembly lines.
According to Ford, they have also started spreading time between production shifts in order to limit interaction between employees. In addition, the company has also mandated its employees to complete a daily survey that screens them for COVID-19 symptoms.
Ford, which previously reported a $2 billion loss for its first-quarter earnings for 2020, has said that its second-quarter loss for this year is likely to double and reach over $5 billion due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Michigan-based company, a Reuters report said, has resorted to slashing costs, including cutting the salaries of its executives and other white-collar employees, in a bid to weather the shutdown.
According to the Commerce Department, the U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8 percent annual rate within the first three months of 2020 — the first quarterly contraction since 2014 and the largest since the Great Recession — as a direct result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.