One day after reopening a Chicago assembly plant, Ford temporarily shut down the factory because two employees tested positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
While the shutdown was brief—the plant was back in operation Wednesday morning—it is a sign of the difficulty of operating factories while complying with enhanced safety measures put in place to deal with the virus pandemic.
The plant, which builds the Ford Explorer, the Lincoln Aviator and the Ford Interceptor police car, resumed production Monday after being suspending production for about two months because of health concerns.
Ford began screening employees’ temperatures when it reopened its plants, and it requires medical tests for workers who exhibit symptoms. The two positive test results came back on Tuesday, prompting an afternoon shutdown. The end of the day shift and part of the night shift were lost due to the temporary shutdown.
“When two employees who returned to work this week tested positive for COVID-19, we immediately notified people known to have been in close contact with the infected individuals and asked them to self-quarantine for 14 days,” said Kelli Felker, a spokesperson for Ford. “We also deep cleaned and disinfected the work area, equipment, team area and the path that the team member took.”
Felker said the affected employees worked in a separate building about a mile from the main assembly line at the plant. But because parts from those employees’ building are needed at the main assembly line, the entire complex was shut down. Ford has about 5,800 employees at the Chicago assembly complex. A separate Chicago stamping plant with just more than 1,000 employees was not shutdown by the problems at the assembly complex.
Felker said Ford is confident that the employees had the virus before they returned to work because of the virus’s incubation time.
“Our protocols are in place to help stop the spread of the virus,” she said.
The United Auto Workers union, which represents hourly workers at Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, issued a statement about the situation in Chicago: It “continues to aggressively monitor the implementation of health and safety protocols to protect our member, their families and their communities.”
Even the partial-day shutdown of one plant demonstrates how difficult it will be for automakers to resume operations while dealing with the pandemic, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor & economics at the Center for Automotive Research, a Michigan think tank. She said many of the auto plants that restarted operations in Asia have been forced to shutdown, at least temporarily.
“There are three things that have to all come together. You have to have a healthy work force, a healthy supply chain and healthy demand,” she said. “It’s not just flip a switch and everything is as it was. It’s very complicated.”
The CNN Wire and Epoch Times staff contributes to this report