Ford closes two U.S. assembly plants because of COVID-19 infections

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Ford Motor on Wednesday shut down two U.S. assembly plants as the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking early havoc with the automaker’s plan to resume North American production and start making its most profitable automobiles again.

Ford closed its Dearborn, Michigan, plant because of a positive COVID-19 test by one worker, while its Chicago assembly plant was closed because of parts shortage, Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker stated.

Ford refused to say which provider had the issue, but a person familiar with the matter informed Reuters that Lear Corp had shut down a plant in Hammond, Indiana. Lear later confirmed in an email that it had closed the plant because of a positive test.

It was the second day in a row Ford had shut down its Chicago plant, following the closure of it twice on Tuesday after two workers on different shifts also tested positive. Both the Dearborn and Chicago factories were then expected to resume production later on Wednesday, Felker said.

In the Dearborn and Chicago positive tests, all exposure happened outside the workplace, Felker said. Dearborn builds the profitable F-150 pickup truck, while the Chicago plant makes the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs.

The U.S. auto industry, including Ford, resumed many plants on Monday following a long shutdown because of the outbreak. To ensure safe operation amid the health crisis, the automakers and suppliers imposed new safety measures, including screening workers who enter the building, mandating the use of face masks and face shields, and social distancing along the assembly line.

The resuming of car plants is going to be a closely watched test of whether workers throughout a range of U.S. industries will be able to get back to factories in large numbers without a resurgence of infections.

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