Last Sunday, General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis (Chrysler parent) announced that they are reinstituting mandatory masking for workers at their facilities in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties. Those counties are now deemed as having HIGH COVID-19 levels by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In those counties listed as HIGH, the CDC is advising to wear a mask indoors, out in public and get tested if you have symptoms. Currently Monroe and Lenawee counties are listed as being at MEDIUM COVID-19 levels. The MEDIUM designation does not advise mandated masking, but people in those counties may see this designation eventually move up to HIGH as well. The CDC reports that currently only 4.25% of U.S. counties are listed as HIGH for COVID-19 infections.
The Big Three is following the CDC’s prevention guidance. In addition to the mask mandate at their facilities, physical distancing of workers will also be in place until COVID levels go down.
Employers are advised to monitor their county’s COVID-19 Community Levels through the CDC’s COVID-19 County Check tool at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/community-levels.html. This tool indicates what COVID-19 levels are county by county throughout the United States and is updated weekly on Thursdays according to the CDC.
To measure COVID Community Levels the CDC looks at the number of COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 people in the population in the previous seven days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID patients, and the total new COVID cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days.
The levels are defined in the chart below.
The CDC recommends actions by individuals and the community at large based upon the level of COVID-19 in the community as shown in the chart below.
Employers are advised to review their COVID Response Plan or their general COVID policy. If your Response Plan or policy states that the employer will follow CDC guidance on workplace protections against COVID-19 and the facility is in a county currently designated as HIGH, your organization should implement the safety precautions as advised by the CDC. OSHA and MIOSHA would expect the employer to follow those guidelines and possibly initiate enforcement if the employer is found to have breached its safety policy on this.
Use the CDC County Check Tool to determine your county’s COVID-19 level.
The CDC also offers a Quarantine and Isolation Calculator for people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or have COVID-19. This tool can be used to determine if they need to isolate, quarantine, or take other steps to prevent spreading COVID-19.
Advise employees not to come into work when ill. As we heard from one employer, an employee that had just tested positive for COVID came into the workplace ostensibly to inform the employer they caught COVID. Advise your employees to call in to give notice of their absence due to sickness or close contact.
Source: U.S. Automakers Reinstate Mask Mandate at Some Michigan Facilities. Reuters (5/15/2022)