Masks still a must at Detroit Three, other U.S. auto plants

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — Autoworkers at the Detroit Three plants and others will have to continue wearing masks while working despite recent changes in mask-wearing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The COVID-19 Joint Task Force, comprised of members from the United Auto Workers, Ford Motor Co. General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV, decided to continue mandating masks until the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issues guidelines, according to a press release sent Wednesday morning by the UAW. 

Dane Hardware, Ford Motor Co. design and release engineer, and Mary Frederick, battery validation engineer, measure the voltage of a battery using a digital multi-meter at Ford's Battery Benchmarking and Test Lab in Allen Park.

Additionally, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis will follow all state, county and city regulations where they have operations.

"We know that masks can be uncomfortable, but we ask that everyone comply," the task force wrote in the press release.

OSHA on its website says it's "reviewing the recent CDC guidance and will update our materials on this website accordingly. Until those updates are complete, please refer to the CDC guidance for information on measures appropriate to protect fully vaccinated workers."

The UAW/Detroit Three task force plans to meet every two weeks and review updates at that time.

New CDC guidelines say fully vaccinated individuals can stop wearing masks in outdoor crowds and some indoor settings and stop social distancing. 

"We highly encourage employees to get vaccinated and report that you have been vaccinated to GM medical," GM spokesman Dan Flores said in a separate Wednesday statement. "Immunity is the best path toward determining when GM may be able to relax or rescind mask wearing protocols."

In a recent statement, Jodi Tinson, spokeswoman for Stellantis, the transatlantic automaker of Jeep and Ram vehicles, said: “As Stellantis continues to strongly advocate that our employees get vaccinated and has been facilitating vaccine administration, we will continue to mandate the use of masks in our facilities, in combination with our other health and safety protocols, for the foreseeable future as they have been proven to protect our employees."

Other automakers, including Toyota Motor North America Inc. and Volkswagen Group of America Inc., are also choosing to keep mask requirements in place.

Subaru Corp. is "continuing to enforce mask-wearing protocols at our plant, along with all of the other COVID-related safety protocols," spokesman Craig Koven said in a statement to The Detroit News. "That being said, as a result of the updated CDC guidance, we are in the process of reviewing our mask mandate. However, there is no timeline for making a decision."

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama also still enforces masks at its plant. 

"We will evaluate the mask requirement after our annual July shutdown," spokesman Michael Stewart said. "Determining factors will be the state’s vaccination rate, our own team member vaccinations rates and COVID-19 case trends at the state and local level."

Chris Abbruzzese, spokesman for American Honda Motor Co., said employees will still be wearing masks "as we evaluate the changing federal, state and local guidelines."

Twitter: @bykaleahall

Staff Writer Breana Noble contributed.