With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise again, the Big Three automakers and UAW agreed to reinstate mask mandates for hourly workers across the U.S. However, they did stop short of requiring vaccines.
The decision came in the wake of new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s for workplaces. CDC officials warned July 30 that fully vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in public places in “areas of substantial and high transmission.”
The new recommendations are a result of the impact of the Delta variant of COVID, which is easier to catch, according to officials.
“The Task Force met and, after reviewing the recently changed CDC guidelines and community COVID-19 trends, decided it is best for worker safety to resume wearing masks in all worksites,” the UAW said in a statement.
“While we know that masks can be uncomfortable, the spread of the Delta variant and recent data outlining the alarmingly high rate of transmission among those unvaccinated is a serious health threat.”
Masks are required regardless of the person’s vaccination status, according to the UAW, which reiterated its support for getting vaccinated.
“We are urging all UAW members and their families to get vaccinated,” UAW President Ray Curry told members in a letter Tuesday, according to Reuters.
“The science is telling us very clearly that the only way to get back to normal is to reach a heightened level of immunity However, we also know that for some, there are religious and health reasons for not getting vaccinated.”
Not just the Detroit automakers on alert
Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. also reinstated its mask mandate for all U.S. employees, according to Reuters.
“The health and safety of employees remains our highest priority,” the company said in a statement emailed to TheDetroitBureau.com. “Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases and modified guidance from the CDC, Nissan is reinstating mask protocols at our U.S.-based facilities. “We continue to work closely with local and state healthcare agencies to monitor and evaluate COVID-19 case data to make adjustments to our safety protocols where needed.”
During an online conference call with the media last week, Toyota’s Chief Administrative Officer Chris Reynolds said the company was considering reinstating some of its COVID-related protocols but had not yet made a final decision about what may happen.
“We’ve always told our teammates the virus runs the show here,” he said.
The company retained some of its protocols, but much of it — for example, wearing a mask — was voluntary. Reynolds noted the company’s entry questionnaire and the temperature checks were eliminated as they were found not to be as effective as expected, plus the company had no confirmed cases.
Hyundai Motor America paused plans to bring employees back to its California headquarters and is on high alert for its other U.S. facilities. Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. operations moved quickly after the new CDC guidelines were issued.
“We informed employees that, effective immediately, MBUSA will require all employees and contractors to wear an approved mask while indoors at all company facilities nationwide,” said Rob Moran, the head of U.S. public relations, told TheDetroitBureau last week. “This revised requirement,” he added, “is independent of vaccination status and location.”