COVID-19

As carmakers restart factories, they look at steps to protect workers from COVID-19

Erika Beras May 18, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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There are about 1,500 workers on a typical shift in a car factory, according to one industry analyst. Scott Olson/Getty Images
COVID-19

As carmakers restart factories, they look at steps to protect workers from COVID-19

Erika Beras May 18, 2020
There are about 1,500 workers on a typical shift in a car factory, according to one industry analyst. Scott Olson/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The auto industry is starting to reopen, and as factories prepare for manufacturing to rev up again, companies say they are taking steps to try to keep workers safe from getting or spreading COVID-19.

About 30,000 parts go into manufacturing a vehicle, and there are about 1,500 workers on a typical shift, according to Kristin Dziczek with the Center for Automotive Research. So, as factories reopen, companies are going to have to take special precautions to keep employees apart.

Dziczek says that might mean changing the way two workers install seat belts. “They may redesign that job, so that somebody is installing the right seat belt anchor inside the car while someone else is doing something on the left side of the vehicle, on the outside,” she said.

Among the steps General Motors says it will take: providing additional protective gear and taking workers’ temperatures when they arrive. Arthur Wheaton, with the Worker Institute at Cornell, says that in order to administer all those screenings, companies need to make adjustments.

“You may have some staggered start and stop times, you may have people arriving at different intervals or different places and they may have more than one entrance,” Wheaton said.

If the companies want to keep manufacturing, they have to make these changes. Not manufacturing is costing the car companies billions.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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