Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn has signed contracts with health systems in four metro areas across the country to test hourly and salaried employees with symptoms of COVID-19. The automaker resumed production and operations in the U.S. today under enhanced safety protocols.
In southeast Michigan, Ford is working with Southfield-based Beaumont Health for testing. Ford employs about 46,000 people in the area, and workers who exhibit symptoms will receive a prescription for testing from Ford’s onsite doctors.
“Fast and accurate testing is a key tool in the effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” says Dr. Walter Talamonti, medical director at Ford. “These contracts will allow us to test employees with suspected symptoms and have results back within 24 hours. If they test positive, we can quickly identify close contact employees who may have been exposed and ask them to self-quarantine for 14 days.”
In Louisville, where Ford has two major assembly plants and employs about 12,500 people, employees will be tested through University of Louisville Health. Those who exhibit symptoms will be asked to immediately schedule a telemedicine appointment with a doctor. The doctor can write a prescription for COVID-19 testing if necessary.
In the Kansas City area, where the F-150 pickup truck is produced, Ford employs more than 7,000 people. Employees will be tested through Liberty Hospital after receiving prescriptions from Ford’s onsite doctors for testing.
In the Chicago area, home to the Chicago Assembly and Chicago Stamping plants, which together employ nearly 7,000 people, employees will be tested through the University of Chicago Medical Center and UChicago Medicine-Ingalls Memorial Hospital.
Ford will advise employees who suspect or exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 to call the COVID number of the University of Chicago Medical Center and UChicago Medicine-Ingalls Memorial Hospital. After a phone screening, they will be given a same-day appointment for COVID-19 testing when appropriate.
In all locations, the goal is to have results available within 24 hours.
“We are working on quickly expanding testing of symptomatic employees,” says Ken Washington, chief technology officer at Ford. “The health and safety of our employees has been – and remains – our top priority as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to expanding locations for these tests, we are also pursuing the possibility of voluntary antibody testing in the future for our employees.”
Ford is initially focusing on polymerase chain reaction testing, which identifies if someone is actively infected. The tests are used to detect the presence of viral RNA, not the presence of antibodies, which are the body’s immune response and show someone has had the virus.
“Fast, accurate tests work hand-in-hand with personal protection equipment and protocols to create a safe environment for our workforce,” says Gary Johnson, chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer at Ford. “We are proud to partner with the UAW to lead the way on restarting our factories the right way.”
Ford previously compiled a Manufacturing Return to Work Playbook to guide its reopening. It was created using best practices and input from experts around the world. Safety protocols the company is using include:
- Daily online employee and visitor health self-certifications completed before work every day. Employees or visitors who indicate they may have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus will be told not to come to Ford facilities.
- No-touch temperature scans upon arrival; anyone with a raised temperature will not be permitted to enter and will need to be cleared of symptoms before returning to work.
- Face masks are required for everyone entering a Ford facility. Every Ford team member will be provided a care kit that includes face masks and other items designed to keep them healthy and comfortable at work.
- Face shields or safety glasses with side shields will be required when jobs don’t allow for social distancing.
- There will be more time between production shifts to limit interaction between employees and allow for additional cleaning.