Tuesday, 10 August 2021 13:20

Automakers Tighten Up Restrictions as COVID Cases Surge

Written by Paul A. Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau
Mercedes-Benz employees in the U.S. must wear masks while indoors again. Mercedes-Benz employees in the U.S. must wear masks while indoors again.


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Nearly 18 months after the auto industry was forced to launch a lengthy shutdown of North American manufacturing operations, carmakers have been slowly, cautiously easing up on pandemic restrictions.

But with the new Delta variant causing a sudden surge in COVID-19 infections, the industry is suddenly facing the need to tighten up again.


With the CDC urging Americans to start wearing masks again indoors, some manufacturers have upgraded their own mask mandates. Others are reconsidering plans to bring workers back after having them work at home since early spring 2020, TheDetroitBureau.com has confirmed.


“It’s a reality we’re dealing with the most recent news of COVID,” said Chris Reynolds, chief administration officer for Toyota Motor North America. “Like everyone, we thought things were starting to turn for the better but the Delta variant, you know, is really affecting everyone, Toyota included.”


A recent visit by TheDetroitBureau.com to Toyota’s sprawling Plano, TX, headquarters found it to be a modern ghost town, with “the vast majority of its normal workforce operating from home,” chief spokesperson Scott Vazin said by text.


The automaker had slowly been easing restrictions. Those reporting to the HQ complex no longer have to fill out questionnaires or go through temperature checks. And those vaccinated no longer need wear masks indoors---though even vaccinated visitors still must mask up.


Reynolds said the Japanese automaker is studying various changes that will likely slow down return to work plans---which had been aimed at having 50% of headquarters workers in the office by early September. Managers at individual parts and assembly plants and other remote operations, meanwhile, will have the flexibility to renew mask requirements.


Toyota isn’t alone.


On July 28, “We informed employees that, effective immediately, MBUSA will require...

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