The Howard County resident who died Tuesday of COVID-19 was a worker at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, according to the United Auto Workers.
The UAW told the Detroit Free Press late Tuesday the union was mourning the death of two of its members – one who worked in Michigan, the other in Indiana.
“I can confirm that two UAW members who had tested positive, one at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant and one in Kokomo, at the Kokomo Transmission Plant, have passed. Both worked for Fiat Chrysler,” Brian Rothenberg, UAW spokesman, told the Detroit Free Press.
“At this time, that’s all the information I have,” he added.
According to a Tuesday press release from the Howard County Health Department, the worker was 60-years-old, had been hospitalized due to the virus and had other underlying health conditions.
FCA, along with General Motors and Ford, closed their factories last week due to COVID-19. The Big Three were pressured to do so by the UAW and its employees due to safety and health concerns.
Howard County’s first case of COVID-19 was a worker at the Kokomo Transmission Plant.
FCA said it deep cleaned and disinfected the man’s working area and that it deployed additional sanitization measures across the entire facility, even re-timing break times to avoid crowding and reducing social spaces.
Despite the sanitation efforts, the Tribune received a handful of messages from local FCA employees who expressed concerns about possible exposure to coronavirus while on the job.
Some say fellow workers who are sick had come to work because they couldn’t afford to stay home.
“We’ve had multiple people sent home waiting to be tested in self quarantine,” said one local FCA worker.
Other local FCA workers said last week that sanitizer had run out and that the company’s social distancing and preventative messages are inadequate. Many who spoke to the Tribune said they hoped the plants would be closed.
Late last week, FCA, GM and Ford said they would close their plants through March 31.
That deadline has been extended, according to Reuters.
According to the news organization and a UAW letter, GM and FCA do not plan on resuming production on March 30. It is currently unclear when they may resume production or if some plants could restart before others.