Automakers lay out back-to-work playbook for coronavirus pandemic

The auto industry is sharing detailed return-to-work guidelines on how to shield employees from the coronavirus as it prepares to reopen its own factories in the coming weeks.

Why it matters: We might not shake hands again, but sooner or later, most of us will return to our jobs, whether in a factory, office or public venue within close proximity of others. Reestablishing an environment where employees feel comfortable and can remain healthy will be a daunting challenge for every employer.

What’s happening: Drawing lessons from China, where production has already resumed, automakers and their suppliers are plotting a coordinated effort to reopen North American factories, perhaps as early as May.

Case study: A 51-page “Safe Work Playbook” from Lear Corp., a maker of seats and vehicle technology, is a good example of what many companies will need to do.

Details: Everything employees touch is subject to contamination, so Lear says companies will need to frequently disinfect items like tables, chairs and microwaves in break rooms and other common areas.

In China, a government-sponsored mobile app tracks employees’ health and location, but such tactics won’t fly in North America, says Jim Tobin, Asia president of Magna International, one of the world’s largest auto suppliers, which has a big presence in China and has been through this drill before.

The big picture: All the extra precautions no doubt add costs and cut into factory productivity, but it’s better than having a lot of expensive capital equipment sitting idle, says Kristin Dziczek, vice president of Industry, Labor & Economics at the Center for Automotive Research.

The bottom line: Gathering around the water cooler is likely off-limits for the foreseeable future. Welcome to the new normal at work.

Technicians in protective clothing do a dry run at Battelle’s Critical Care Decontamination System in New York. Photo: John Paraskevas/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Battelle, an Ohio nonprofit research and development firm, has employees working to disinfect thousands of face masks used by health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: There is a shortage of personal protective equipment, even as companies from fashion and tech industries are stepping up to manufacture masks.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that the World Health Organization should commit to an “after-action report” on what China “did and didn’t tell the world” about the coronavirus outbreak.

Why it matters: Gottlieb, who has become a leading voice in the coronavirus response outside the Trump administration, said China may have been able to contain the virus entirely if officials were truthful about the extent of the initial outbreak in Wuhan.

The number of novel coronavirus cases now exceeds 555,000 in the U.S., with more than 2.8 million tests having been conducted as of Sunday night, per Johns Hopkins.

The big picture: The death toll surpassed that of Italy’s Saturday. Over 22,000 Americans have died of the virus. The pandemic is exposing — and deepening — many of the nation’s great inequalities.

Post time: Apr-13-2020