By Charlotte Smith
DuPont, Gildan Activewear Inc., Smithfield Foods, and other large industries in Bladen County have not announced any upcoming shutdowns due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak.
Gildan Activewear Inc., a Canadian yarn spinning manufacturer with a facility in Clarkton, did send employees home, but has yet to make a formal announcement about their Coronavirus policy.
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announced plans to suspend America’s manufacturing until April 3, or longer if the need arises earlier this month, but Goodyear Commercial Tire & Service Centers (CTSC) locations nationwide are expected to remain open to meet critical tire and service needs.
“Goodyear is dedicated to meeting tire and service needs for the many hardworking professional drivers, first responders and other essential workers who are making countless sacrifices to protect public health and safety and deliver needed goods during these difficult times,” said Frank Payne, director, Goodyear Commercial Tire & Service Centers. “With the health and wellbeing of our customers and associates top of mind, we are taking a number of precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19 at all of our centers so we can remain open and keep vehicles on the road.”
The Carolina Retread in Clarkton is owned and operated by Black’s Tire. There is no official word on their Coronavirus policy.
“A phased shutdown will begin across the company’s tire, retread and chemical plants in Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and the United States over the coming days,” according to a Goodyear news release.
DuPont released the following statement in regard to the outbreak.
“DuPont is closely monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as it continues to spread across the world, and taking steps to keep our employees, customers and communities in which we operate informed. We’ll continue to provide new information and resources as they become available.”
Bladen County officials addressed the concerns of the larger industries in a press conference yesterday.
Dr. Terri Duncan, Bladen County Health and Human Services Director reported Smithfield and other industries are working under the Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC).
“The supervisor for Environmental Control and his staff have been to the industries here.” Duncan stated, “They are working within the guidelines and doing very well.”
Bladen County Director of Emergency Nathan Dowless said, “I do know they have policies in place.” Dowless, Duncan, and Bladen County Sheriff, Jim McVicker, have all reported being in contact with the industries.
Smithfield Foods has more than 40,000 employees nationwide in 40 states across the nation. It is maintaining normal operations during the pandemic, something its leadership says is a necessity during a time of crisis and a result of federal orders.
There are reports of a Smithfield Foods employee at a facility in Sioux Falls testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and being quarantined for 14 days. According to Keira Lombardo, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Compliance for Smithfield Foods, the employee is being paid during this time and all employees at the location have been notified. The employee will not be permitted to return to work without being cleared by their healthcare provider, said Lombardo.
“Food is an essential part of all our lives, and our more than 40,000 U.S. team members, thousands of American family farmers and our many other supply chain partners are a crucial part of our nation’s response to COVID-19,” Smithfield Foods president and CEO Kenneth Sullivan said in a statement sent to the Argus Leader Friday.
Smithfield will maintain normal operations during the pandemic.
The CDC says there is no evidence that COVID-19 is associated with food, and “there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”
Sullivan addresses these concerns in a video. See the video below:
“During these challenging times for our country and fellow Americans, Smithfield is taking a multipronged approach to respond to COVID-19. In addition to supporting our more than 40,000 U.S. employees on our farms and in our facilities, thousands of family farmers and other partners in our supply chain, we also have a responsibility to help our communities as we weather this health and economic storm together. No American should go without food, not ever, and certainly not now,” said Keira Lombardo, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Compliance for Smithfield Foods.
Bladen County residents have wiped grocery store shelves clean on products ranging from pork, beef, and chicken to disinfectants and toilet paper due to the outbreak.
The USDA is seeking to reassure meat producers it will keep slaughterhouses staffed with federal inspectors as fears about potential shutdowns. The USDA reports it will use its authority and “all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing considerations” during the outbreak.