This week, the Detroit Three automakers began reopening their plants after a two month shut-down due to Coronavirus. Through work with the UAW, factories appeared about as ready as they could be to go back to work. Increased screening, social distancing and sanitization will help protect outbreaks on the inside of factories, but Ford just learned there is little they can do to stop their employees from contracting COVID-19 on the outside. According to The Detroit Free Press, three UAW factory workers across two Ford plants have already tested positive since factories reopened on Monday, May 18.
Two employees at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, where the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator are built, tested positive on Tuesday, May 19. The next day, one worker at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan F-150 truck plant tested positive for the virus. In both cases, the factory was completely shut down until every area the infected worker contacted was fully sanitized. Afterwards, the facility reopened.
Given the close proximity to the factory restart date, a Ford spokesperson told The Detroit Free Press Ford is confident the workers all got the virus prior to returning to work. This highlights the trouble with returning to factory work, or any workplace for that matter.
Ford, like the other automakers, are doing every precaution imaginable to protect workers from the virus on the inside of plants, and prevent a possible outbreak inside factories. But there is little to nothing they can do to protect workers from getting the virus outside of work other than recommending safe practices while in public.
Because of this, it won’t be an easy road ahead for automotive factories even though they are now back open. Just loosing one shift due to a worker testing positive can have severe setbacks. Furthermore, while Coronavirus cases are falling, new cases per day are hovering just under 500 per day in Michigan alone, according to Michigan.gov data. Looking ahead, especially with public places reopening, there will certainly be more UAW workers across the nation test positive for Coronavirus, and it’s something Ford and its competitors will have to deal with moving forward. Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet.