Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced Monday it intends to progressively restart its U.S. manufacturing facilities beginning May 4.
The FCA plants in Kokomo and Tipton closed on March 18 after all of Detroit’s Big Three automakers agreed to temporarily shut down operations at all North American factories due to worker fears about the coronavirus.
The company said Monday a specific reopen date has not yet been set for the FCA plants in Kokomo and Tipton.
FCA said during the current pause in production, the company is working with government officials and the United Auto Workers union to implement new procedures to “certify the daily wellness of the workforce.”
That includes redesigning work stations to maintain proper social distancing, and expanding the “already extensive cleaning protocols” at all its manufacturing locations.
“As a result of these actions, we will only restart operations with safe, secure and sanitized workplaces to protect all of our employees,” the company said in a release. “FCA continues to make the health and well-being of its employees a top priority.”
A worker at Kokomo’s Transmission Plant was the first-known case of someone testing positive for COVID-19 inside a U.S. auto plant, and was also the first case of the virus in Howard County.
A worker at the Transmission Plant ended up dying from the virus, marking the county’s first virus-related death.
The Detroit Free Press reported Sunday that there have now been 11 confirmed deaths of FCA employees diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. One of those is the Kokomo death, and the rest were at facilities outside the state.
Ford Motor Company has reported six deaths. Neither General Motors nor the UAW have confirmed any GM employee deaths associated with COVID-19.
Charlie Sparks, president and CEO of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, said local FCA employees returning to work will be a huge boost to the local economy, which has shriveled in the last few weeks due to the pandemic.
He said the reopening of the FCA factories will go a long way in jump starting other parts of the city’s economy, such as restaurants and small businesses deemed essential that are allowed to be open.
“It’s such a big source of the disposable income for this community that drives all the other sectors, such as retail and service,” Sparks said. “It’s going to be a key indicator of how soon we can recover.”