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May 21, 2020

Virus alerts shut Ford plants temporarily

Ford shut down its Dearborn Truck Plant on Wednesday afternoon after learning a worker tested positive for coronavirus and released its early shift  about 1:30 pm.

By Olly Wehring

Ford shut down its Dearborn Truck Plant on Wednesday afternoon after learning a worker tested positive for coronavirus and released its early shift  about 1:30 pm.

"They sent everybody home," a UAW worker told the Detroit Free Press. "We probably got 800 people there. After lunch, everybody got sent home. They had people start cleaning."

The paper said this was is the second plant shutdown in two days at Ford because of UAW employees testing positive for the coronavirus, the first being Chicago Assembly on Tuesday.

Chicago Assembly was stopped again on Wednesday morning after supplier Lear shut a plant supplying seats, a separate media report said.

Dearborn Truck builds the F-150 while Chicago makes the Explorer, Police Interceptor SUV and Lincoln Aviator.

"The safety of our workforce is our top priority," Kelli Felker, Ford global manufacturing and communications manager, said in a statement cited by the Detroit Free Press.

"When a Dearborn Truck Plant employee who returned to work this week tested positive for COVID-19, we immediately began to notify people known to have been in close contact with the infected individual and asked them to self-quarantine for 14 days.

"We are deep cleaning and disinfecting the work area, equipment, team area and the path that the team member took. We expect to resume production tonight," she said.

"It is important to note that due to incubation time, we know this employee did not contract COVID-19 while at work," Felker said. "Our protocols are in place to help stop the spread of the virus."

Protocols include temperature screening at plant entrances.

"I'm not gonna be surprised if we get a robocall later telling us not to come in," the UAW worker at Dearborn Truck told the Free Press. "I don't see how you can clean this stuff up in three hours. It's just crazy. I don't think we should be working. I'm not scared of it, but I don't want to be walking around and giving it to people."

The worker told the paper factory workers have paper masks, face shields and gloves. The worker said supervisors told workers the employee sent home worked in the chassis department on line three. A source at Ford confirmed the area of the contaminated worker. 

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg told the Free Press the labour organisation that represents an estimated 150,000 autoworkers employed by Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is continuing to "actively monitor the implementation of all the protocols and how they impact the health and safety of our members, their families and the communities they live in".

Felker declined to provide details to the Free Press about why Lear had a shortage issue, saying Ford doesn't discuss its suppliers.

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