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General Motors has shut down its engineering building at its Technical Center in Warren after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.

GM expects to reopen it later Tuesday.

“We just learned yesterday that an employee who works at the Cole Engineering Center in Warren has tested positive for the virus,” said Jim Cain, GM spokesman told the Free Press.

GM learned the news last night, Cain said. GM has since been in contact with the family and put an emergency response plan into action. It includes directing employees at the Cole Engineering Center and other sites to work remotely if they can.

GM shut down the employee card swipe machines at the building late Monday, said Cain, to keep any workers out while cleaning crews started disinfecting the employee’s work area. 

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“We’re cleaning the work space. We’re doing everything that is medically and scientifically called for to make sure it’s a safe work space,” said Cain. “We’ll be reaching out to people who may have been in contact with the employee.”

Any employee who had contact with the affected worker will be directed to self-quarantine for 14 days and the GM medical team will help them coordinate care if they develop symptoms, GM said in a statement.

GM has been in contact with public health officials and moved quickly to deep clean and disinfect work and common areas at the site.

“Going forward, we will continue to take aggressive steps to help prevent the spread of the virus and keep families safe,” Cain said in a statement.

On Friday, GM told all its employees and contract workers to work remotely starting Monday if the nature of their job allowed for it. Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles issued similar instructions. 

A “handful” of employees continued working onsite at the Tech Center on Monday due to the nature of their job, Cain said. The building will be thoroughly cleaned so they can return to their jobs, he said. In fact, “We anticipate the building will reopen for business later this morning.”

So far no other GM employees, including those in its factories, have tested positive for coronavirus, Cain said. 

On Sunday, GM, Ford and FCA announced they’d formed a task force with the UAW to enhance the protection of factory workers. The task force worked throughout the day Monday, Cain said. 

“One thing they focused on was turnstiles and other common areas in plants to look for ways to enhance safety in the workplace,” he said. “One of the things we’re working through on our own and with the task force is what scheduling adjustments are required to make sure we have time to clean work areas during shifts and between shifts.”

A UAW local leader at GM’s Romulus Engine plant told the Free Press that it has gone to abbreviated shifts so that workers have less contact with each other.

The leader, who asked to not be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said each of the three shifts now works 7.5 hours, but is paid for 8 hours. The extra half hour between shifts is used to clean the work areas and common areas. Cain confirmed this is happening at Romulus and other plants.

“We’d already made adjustments to overtime schedules, too,” said Cain, but added that GM is not yet issuing face masks, gloves or other items to protect plant workers.

Here are some other actions GM has taken in recent days to protect employees:

  • Restrictions on domestic and international travel.
  • Additional screening of all visitors prior to entry into GM facilities.
  • Using technology to reduce or eliminate in-person meetings.
  • Redeploying resources such as cleaning crews, sanitization/cleaning supplies and medical staff to those areas where working remotely is not an option.
  • Increasing the frequency of cleaning touch points like door handles, handrails and tables.
  • Using CDC-recommended cleaners and procuring hand sanitizer and wipe stations.
  • Changing cafeteria offerings to eliminate shared serving areas like salad bars.

Contact Jamie L. LaReau at 313-222-2149 or jlareau@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletter.

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