A salaried employee at a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plant in Kokomo, IN, tests positive for the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus. The automaker says production at the vital transmission plant has not been disrupted.
“FCA is working with local area health authorities in Kokomo, IN, to support the treatment of an employee who tested positive for COVID-19,” FCA says in a statement. “The employee, who works at the Kokomo Transmission Plant, is currently receiving medical care.
“Consistent with CDC guidelines and the company’s own protocols, the company has placed into home quarantine (the employee’s) immediate co-workers and others in the facility he may have come into direct contact with. Additionally, the company has deep-cleaned and disinfected his working area and is deploying additional sanitization measures across the entire facility, retiming break times to avoid crowding and deploying social spacing.”
Earlier this week, FCA said it would shut down much of its operations in Italy in response to the virus, which has forced the Italian government to order measures such as bans on public gatherings and school closings to combat the spread of the virus.
While automakers have acknowledged the COVID-19 outbreak has threatened the industry’s supply chain from China, the situation in Kokomo also illustrates how the virus could disrupt operations in a plant where dozens of workers work in relatively close quarters, take breaks and eat lunch together and share lavatories.
The UAW also has stepped up its vigilance in response to the outbreak.
“Our thoughts and support are with our UAW members and their family, friends and community in Kokomo, IN,” union Vice President Cindy Estrada says.
“The UAW has been actively monitoring and reacting to issues related to the spread of COVID-19. We are working with FCA on this first discovery of the virus at one of their facilities as well as on the precautions and measures necessary to protect our UAW FCA members and everyone who works in our facilities.”
The Kokomo Transmission Plant and neighboring aluminum casting plant, which together employ about 4,000 people, are part of a constellation of FCA plants around the city of 45,000 located 50 miles (80 km) north of Indianapolis. FCA also operates two other transmission plants in the area.
Last week, Indiana Gov. Earl Holcomb and Estrada attended a ceremony at a fifth FCA plant in Kokomo, which was closed last fall and is being repurposed to build a new family of GMET 2.0L turbocharged I-4 engines. The $400 million conversion of the former transmission plant began earlier this year and will be finished in 2021, FCA says.