Ford halting production at all North American manufacturing facilities amid coronavirus outbreak

Ford has confirmed it is temporarily suspending production at all its manufacturing sites in North America amid the coronavirus emergency.

The suspension will begin following Thursday evening shifts for all U.S., Mexico and Canadian manufacturing facilities and will last through March 30. During that time, facilities will be thoroughly cleaned.

Ford Motor Company was the first of the Big Three to suspend operations at its factories amid the coronavirus outbreak. General Motors has also now suspended production in North America.

“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”

UAW and Ford leaders will work together in the coming weeks on plant restart plans as well as exploring additional protocols and procedures for helping prevent the spread of the virus.

Ford also closed down part of its Wayne Michigan Assembly Plant earlier Wednesday after an employee tested positive for the virus. 

Details have not yet come of a closure from Fiat Chrysler, though sources were telling the Associated Press that all three automakers have agreed to shut down temporarily.

Tensions are growing among autoworkers for the Big Three. Cases in Michigan as of early Wednesday afternoon are at 65, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said gatherings need to be limited to 50 people or less. Yet thousands are still working among each other at the Big Three factories.

RELATED: Track the spread of COVID-19 with our interactive map

Tuesday night, the UAW met with executives from the Big Three to discuss their options.

During that meeting, the UAW and the big three automakers agreed not to close manufacturing plants in exchange for new safety measures and an increase in adherence to CDC recommendations on social distancing in the workplace.

The agreement also includes rotating partial shutdowns of facilities, extensive deep cleaning of those facilities and equipment between shifts.

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Since the first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Michigan on March 10, Gov. Whitmer has declared a state emergency, closed all schools, prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people, restricted visits to hospitals and other facilities, closed public spaces such as theaters, bars, gyms and casinos, and limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders.  

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.