Ford will test hourly and salaried employees with suspected COVID-19 symptoms in four metropolitan areas with critical company facilities: Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City and Louisville, KY. The automaker also says it plans to expand testing to additional locations.
The announcement came Friday, before most Ford manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Canada resume operations today.
Ford says its goal is to provide employees and the company with test results within 24 hours in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which shut down most U.S. auto industry plants in mid-March. Ford and other automakers have adopted extensive new health and safety procedures as they gradually resume production.
The automaker is coordinating the testing with local health systems: Beaumont Health in metro Detroit; University of Chicago Medical Center and U-Chicago Medicine-Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Chicago; University of Louisville Health in Louisville; and Liberty Hospital in Kansas City.
“Fast and accurate testing is a key tool in the effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Walter Talamonti, Ford medical director, says in a news release. “These contracts will allow us to test employees with suspected symptoms and have results back within 24 hours. If they test positive, (Ford doctors) can quickly identify close-contact employees who may have been exposed and ask them to self-quarantine for 14 days.”
Ford is initially focusing on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which identifies if someone is actively infected. PCR tests are used to detect the presence of viral RNA, not the presence of antibodies, which are the body’s immune response.
“Fast, accurate tests work hand-in-hand with personal protection equipment and protocols to create a safe environment for our workforce,” says Gary Johnson, Ford’s chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer. “We are proud to partner with the UAW to lead the way on restarting our factories the right way.”
Ford has 46,000 employees in metro Detroit; nearly 7,000 in Chicago; 12,500 in Louisville; and more than 7,000 in Kansas City.