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COVID-19 case linked to Sterling plant

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 18, 2020

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The novel coronavirus is now being tied to someone who works in Sterling Heights, according to a March 17 announcement from city officials.

The city reported that a worker from the FCA Sterling Heights Assembly Plant was tested and confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19.  

“While this news is not positive, the city urges residents to remain calm and continue to limit social interaction to the greatest extent possible,” the city statement reads. “This practice is the best defense against transmission of the COVID-19 virus.”

Under Sterling Heights’ own declared state of emergency, it has closed city offices and activities except for necessary public safety duties from its police and fire departments. The city also said it will keep working with county, state and federal agencies to overcome obstacles posed by the coronavirus.

“We will get through this public health care crisis — but our ability to get through this as quickly as possible depends on all of us working together, caring for each other and following the guidelines and protocols established by medical experts and our state and federal government agencies,” Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor said in a statement.

The city said FCA officials said they have taken action to stop more infections by enacting internal protocols and guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

FCA spokeswoman Jodi Tinson forwarded a company statement dated March 16. The company said the worker hadn’t been in the plant “over the week,” and the individual was being treated.

“Consistent with CDC guidelines and the company’s own protocols, FCA has directed co-workers who may have had contact with the employee to self-quarantine for the next two weeks,” FCA said. “The employee’s working area has also been deep cleaned and disinfected.”

FCA said its safety protocols have — among other things — separated work shifts by at least an hour, and arranged lunches and breaks “to increase the instance between people.” The company is cleaning busy areas, making cleaning materials available to workers, doing safety training, and limiting travel and facility visitors.

The SHAP worker incident comes just after a coronavirus case was tied to a worker at the General Motors Technical Center in a Warren, as revealed in a March 17 statement by GM.

A March 17 posting on the United Auto Workers’ website said the union spoke with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler automakers and “strongly requested” to end production for the next two weeks to protect the workers.

“We spent hours tonight in talks with the leadership of the Big 3, demanding that they do the right thing for our members,” the statement reads. “All three companies have agreed to new measures that will increase adherence to CDC recommendations on social distancing in the workplace. 

“Most importantly, all three companies have agreed to review and implement the rotating partial shutdown of facilities, extensive deep cleaning of facility and equipment between shifts, extended periods between shifts, and extensive plans to avoid member contact. They will be working on shift rotation to minimize risk.” 

A UAW representative could not be reached by press time to confirm the reactions of SHAP workers to the coronavirus news.

According to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus map, more than 198,000 cases have been documented worldwide, at press time, since a late 2019 outbreak in China garnered global concern.

For more information about Sterling Heights and the coronavirus, visit sterling-heights.net/communityinfo. Learn about FCA by visiting www.fcagroup.com. For UAW updates, visit uaw.org.

Call Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at (586) 498-1058.

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