Just Days After Reopening, Ford Motor Co Temporarily Closes 2 Assembly Plants
After an unprecedented two month shutdown to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. auto workers finally got back to work on Monday, only after extra safety measures were put in place.
U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co provided assembly line workers with personal protective equipment, including face masks and face shields for some workers, as well as facility modifications to increase social distancing. However, after a Ford worker in Michigan tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, the automaker temporarily closed the plant once again.
Ford closed its Dearborn, Michigan, plant due to a positive COVID-19 test by one worker, while its Chicago assembly plant was closed due to a parts shortage, Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said to Reuters.
Ford's Dearborn, Michigan plant produces the popular and profitable F-150 pickup and employs around 4,200 hourly workers.
Ford declined to say which supplier had the issue, but a person familiar with the matter told Reuters that Lear Corp had closed a plant in Hammond, Indiana. Lear later confirmed in an email to Reuters that it had closed the plant due to a positive test.
Lear supplies seats to Ford for its Chicago assembly plant. The plant builds the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs. The plant is around 40 miles away from Ford's Chicago factory.
It was the second day in a row Ford had closed its Chicago plant. The plant closed on Tuesday, just one day after reopening, after two workers on different shifts also tested positive.
In the Dearborn and Chicago positive tests, all exposures to the coronavirus occurred outside the workplace, Felker said.
Ford's rivals General Motor and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) alos resumed manufacturing on Monday for the first time in two months. However, the two automakers reported no positive coronavirus cases this week.
The reopening of U.S. auto plants are being closely monitored. If the auto industry can resume production without a spike in new coronavirus cases, other industries are likely to follow, which will be the first steps in restarting manufacturing in the U.S. and helping the economy to recover from the impact of the coronavirus. The auto industry accounts for 6% of all U.S. economic activity.
A record 2.4 million workers filed for jobless benefits last week, the government reported today, bringing the total of new claims to more than 38 million in the past nine weeks. In April the U.S. unemployment rate reached 14.7%, the highest number since the great depression.
Separately, President Trump is scheduled to visit Ford Motor Co.'s Rawsonville manufacturing plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan and will deliver remarks, according to the White House. The plant has been temporarily repurposed to manufacture ventilators.
Although Ford is requiring that all of its employees wear face masks, its not clear if President Trump will wear one when he visits.
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