Bridgestone Americas, the company that owns the Des Moines Ag Tire Plant, has confirmed with Local 5 that an employee at the factory has tested positive for COVID-19.
On April 23, the company received word that the employee had coronavirus and was in isolation at home. 1,340 employees work at the factory that makes Firestone tires for tractors and other farm equipment. Company executies had shut down the plant in late March, but reopened after a few weeks. Bridgestone workers have been getting their temperatures checked before they enter the factory.
"We were prepared for this and are following our rapid response plans developed through our Enterprise Crisis Management Team. This team has been monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and consulting federal, state and local officials, as well as health organizations to coordinate risk mitigation and business continuity strategies," said a company spokeswoman in a statement to Local 5. "Out of an abundance of caution and to help ensure the continued safety and well-being of our employees, Bridgestone Americas did a deep cleaning and disinfecting of the area of the facility where the employee worked. We have contacted all employees who may have had contact with the affected employee, as defined by the CDC. Those who have will be directed to self-quarantine for 14 days and to contact their health care provider if they develop any symptoms."
Bridgestone isn't the only factory to confirm positive COVID-19 cases. John Deere, TPI Composites, and several meatpacking plants have all confirmed coronavirus among their workforce over the last several weeks. The responses to the confirmed cases have been mixed from the companies: some are temporarily shutting down their factory floors to deep clean, while others are reducing the amount of production. Gov. Kim Reynolds and her public health task force have not ordered any factories or packing plants to shut down because of outbreaks at the facilities.
Several lawmakers have called for more transparency surrounding outbreaks of COVID-19 at long-term care facilties, meatpacking plants, and manufacturing locations.
In an advisory issued over the weekend, State Auditor Rob Sand noted HIPAA "does not prevent disclosure of aggregate data, statistics, or other information that doesn’t identify any individual. For example, HIPAA does not prevent the disclosure of the number of individuals in a long-term care facility or a packing plant who have COVID-19, nor the identity of the business in question. Iowa law can bar disclosure of the names of businesses involved in a public health report. However, Iowa Code 139A.3 gives the state epidemiologist and/or the Iowa Department of Public Health the authority to make those business names public if they determine “such a release of information necessary for the protection of the health of the public.”
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