On first day back to work at Ford plant, employee tests positive for COVID-19

Coronavirus

CHICAGO (WGN) — A case of COVID-19 hit a newly reopened Ford assembly plant in Chicago on its first day back.

The sprawling South Side facility had been shut down for weeks amid the pandemic.

Ford confirmed that one employee who came back Monday has COVID-19 and was sent home, citing their protocol. They sent the following statement: 

“We notified people known to have been in close contact with the infected individual, while maintaining confidentiality, and asked them to self-quarantine for 14 days. We are also cleaning and disinfecting the work area, equipment, team area and the path that the team member took.”

However, in a memo sent to workers in March, they mentioned a different protocol saying, “If someone that works at one of our plants tests positive for COVID-19, we will close the building in which that person works for 24 hours to be deep-cleaned and disinfected consistent with CDC guidelines.”

One Ford employee said there is an outbreak going on and said Ford is hiding it. The employee asked to remain unidentified because they said they are worried about their job and health.

“I feel like I’m going to be sick when I go to work. They don’t care,” the employee said. “They don’t care nothing about us but our profits. If we don’t go to work, they’re just going to fire us and hire new people.”

In a robocall sent to workers late Tuesday afternoon, they were notified that the plant had reopened just hours after the infected worker went home.

Ford said their “safety protocols continue to evolve as we learn more about COVID-19.” A day after reopening, the company sent out a video showing temperature checks, PPE for workers and social distancing reminders.

On the UAW Local 551 Facebook page, some have called into question the protocols — including a survey that employees must fill out — saying, in part, “The way this was implemented only incentivizes people to lie on that survey.”

The employee who asked to remain anonymous said that while face masks are being used, many are not using face shields and are not maintaining social distances. The employee said sometimes they cannot social distance because of their work.

“We’re asking the mayor and we’re asking the governor to help us,” the employee said. “It’s definitely profits over people. They’re trying, Ford’s doing whatever they can to protect their bonuses that come every March. Forget that profit sharing. I want to live.”

The governor’s office said, “The administration is working with industry to ensure the proper health protocols are in place and the Governor has urged employees who feel unsafe to report it the Attorney General’s office.”

Ford did not make clear how many other employees came into contact with the infected worker and how many are now self-quarantining because of it.

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