South Carolina Boeing worker tests positive for virus

South Carolina Boeing worker tests positive for virus

COLUMBIA, S.C. — (AP) — An employee at Boeing's South Carolina production facility has tested positive for COVID-19, the company said Monday.

The employee was quarantined and was being treated, said Boeing spokeswoman Libba Holland. The company asked all workers who had been in close contact with the employee to self-quarantine at home and monitor themselves for any symptoms, Holland said.

The case is the first to be confirmed at the facility, where the aerospace manufacturer assembles its 787 Dreamliner jet. About 7,000 employees work at the North Charleston plant, according to Holland.

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Also Monday, officials with the International Association of Machinists, which represents thousands of workers at Boeing’s Everett, Washington, plant, confirmed that one worker there had died after contracting the virus.

A spokesman for the Everett facility said the company was aware of reports of an employee death and was “taking the right steps to confirm the information while respecting the individual's and the family's privacy.”

Later Monday, the company announced it would suspend operations at the Everett facility, as well as another plant in the Seattle area, for two weeks due to the spread of the coronavirus. At least 95 people have died in Washington state, mostly in the Seattle area. Boeing employs more than 60,000 people in the state.

The company said employees in the region who can work from home will continue doing so, and those who can't — including the tens of thousands of machinists who build airplanes — will receive paid leave.

Boeing has taken several measures to deal with the fallout from the global virus outbreak, which has halted major travel and shuttered many businesses. Last week, the company announced it was suspending its dividend payment, and that the company's CEO and board chairman would forgo their pay for the rest of the year.

Last week, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced her resignation from Boeing's board over her opposition to the manufacturer's pursuit of $60 billion in "public and private liquidity" for the aerospace industry.

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The virus causes only minor flu-like symptoms in most people, who recover in a matter of weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death in some, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Severe cases are often only able to breathe with respirators.

As of Monday, there were 298 known cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina, and five deaths. During an afternoon news conference, Gov. Henry McMaster said he had authorized law enforcement to break up groups of three or more, adding that his order was intended to discourage unruly gatherings and not meant to disrupt orderly commercial activities.

“What this does not apply to ... is law abiding groups,” McMaster said.