Ford, Stellantis, GM to require face masks at SE Michigan plants as COVID-19 cases rise

Ford, General Motors and Stellantis will once again require face masks at facilities in southeast Michigan where COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

A GM spokesman said on Saturday that the company would add "protective measures" in response to the coronavirus surge. On Monday, the company confirmed that a face mask requirement would be one of the measures.

The changes are to align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they come about two months after a COVID-19 task force made up of representatives from the Detroit Three automakers and the UAW announced that masks would become optional.

In recent weeks, however, the coronavirus picture has changed rapidly.

People in 16 Michigan counties are now advised to wear masks in indoor, public places because the counties are in the high-risk category based on the CDC data tracker, the Free Press reported on Friday. The levels, according to previous reporting, can range from low to high and are based on hospital bed use, hospital admissions and the number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.

Stellantis, in a notice shared through a number of Facebook postings, highlighted its facilities in five of the high-risk counties — Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, Wayne and Washtenaw counties.

The company provided a statement to the Free Press:

"Beginning Monday, May 16, company-issued face masks will again be required for employees, contractors and visitors at all facilities located within the five Michigan counties now classified as high risk of infection by the CDC. It is expected that the requirement will be in place for the next two weeks."

More: 16 Michigan counties now at high level of COVID-19 transmission. CDC says wear a mask.

More: COVID-19 cases in Michigan expected to climb through May: What it means

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Ford also issued a statement:

"The health and safety of our workforce is our top priority as we continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation. We are temporarily reinstating a face mask requirement at all Ford facilities located in areas that the CDC has classified as orange/ high-risk due (to) increased COVID-19 cases which currently impacts Wayne, Washtenaw and Macomb counties."

GM will add "protection measures," according to a statement from a company spokesman on Saturday:

"We will be implementing COVID protection measures at our facilities in Oakland, Wayne, Livingston and Macomb counties given the CDC has now listed them as high risk, and we are in the process of communicating that with our employees."

The company has since confirmed that by Wednesday GM provided face masks will be required for everyone entering the sites. The company also said it encourages frequent hand washing and physical distancing and says that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, a positive test result or who has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 should notify a supervisor or the absence line and the site's medical staff.

The COVID-19 joint task force made up of representatives from the UAW, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis has met regularly to discuss protocols and procedures connected to the virus, according to a statement sent by a UAW spokeswoman.

"In March, we agreed to adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and move to a masks optional policy for employees at U.S. facilities regardless of vaccination status, if those facilities are not in high-risk counties as identified by the CDC. If a facility is located in high-risk counties as identified by the CDC, they will require masking and physical distancing. Current changes to masking rules at some locations are a result of this policy,” according to the UAW.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Masks back for workers at Ford, GM, Stellantis plants in SE Michigan