COVID-19 strikes 42 Juarez maquiladora workers


Electrolux says workers contracted coronavirus outside the plant, won't confirm report of two fatalities

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Dozens of workers at a U.S.-run factory in Juarez have come down with COVID-19, but plant management would not confirm published reports about two of their employees dying.

“The 42 employees who tested positive informed us that they believe they were infected from close contacts in the community,” Sweden-based Electrolux Group told Border Report in an email. “As the community cases continue to spike, we are proactively working with the government to have them come inspect the campus and our safety protocols. We are asking all employees to follow safety steps while at home and in the community,”

The company manufactures home appliances under the brands Electrolux, AEG and Frigidaire. According to a Juarez business directory, it runs three plants in the city.

Diario de Juarez on Monday published screen captures of messages plant managers reportedly sent their employees though an internal app. The deceased employees last showed up to work on Oct. 2 and Oct. 16, respectively, Diario reported.

Electrolux did not confirm or address the alleged fatalities in its email. A top Juarez health official also declined to confirm the report but said he wasn’t surprised if there had been such an outbreak.

“Tell me of a single place where we don’t have an outbreak. We are on (threat condition) red. Right now, if you were to place your finger anywhere on (a map of Juarez) you will find an outbreak,” said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, state health department director in Juarez.

The Health Department officially knows of only three COVID-19 outbreaks at U.S.-run manufacturing plants in Juarez, which left a tally of 25 workers dead and 59 others ill.

Maquiladoras are Juarez’s largest employer and assemble parts and products for companies all over the world on production lines and in team environments that require individuals to be in proximity to others.

Valenzuela said the Health Department has inspected numerous plants and found them to be diligent in their compliance with COVID-19 protocols, which include the use of facemasks and other personal protective equipment, as well as frequent handwashing.

“If an outbreak occurs and it’s confined to one work area, we close the work area. If (the outbreak) involves various areas, we would close the plant,” he said.

Electrolux told Border Report it is “proactively working with the government” on future inspections of its campus and its safety protocols.

“We are asking all employees to follow safety steps while at home and in the community, and to take masks home when they leave at night,” the company said. We began taking safety actions in March and have taken many more since then including disinfecting the full campus daily, requiring social distancing, masks, face shields and daily temperature scans.”

It also said it has donated masks and refrigerators to Juarez General Hospital.

Juarez had confirmed 12,146 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 1,102 fatalities as of Monday afternoon.

The city has been under an overnight curfew (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) since last Friday and churches, gyms, bars and nightclubs have been ordered closed. No more than two adults can ride in a vehicle at any time and alcohol sales have been banned Thursday through Sunday.

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