March 27 was as chaotic a day as any to date in the COVID-19 outbreak. Deaths in New York and New Jersey continued to climb, and the House of Representatives passed a third bill to the President intended to bandage the quarantine-wracked economy via a record-busting stimulus package. Manufacturers all over the country this week closed factories, instituted strict cleanliness procedures to limit the spread of the illness, or attempted to remake entire supply chains to sell urgently required medical equipment, in many cases at cost.
And, in a late-Friday upset, President Trump, after issuing a Twitter invective against GM CEO Mary Barra for not moving fast enough, invoked the Defense Production Act to force General Motors to produce ventilators with Ventec Life Systems, Inc. That marked a dramatic turn from as recently ago as March 26, when the President said that invoking the act wouldn’t be necessary.
President Trump Signs CARES Stimulus Act into Law
Following its passage of the Senate on Wednesday, the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) was passed by the House of Representatives. The $2.2 trillion bill passed a little later than expected after a Republican representative from Kentucky insisted on a recorded vote: enough representatives arrived in person to overcome the objection and pass the bill to the White House in the early afternoon. President Trump signed the bill a few hours afterwards at 4 o’clock.
The bill, one of the largest spending bills in modern history, contains billions of dollars in loans for large corporations, grants for smaller companies, expanded unemployment benefits and tax credits. Read the full story here.
What to Know About Keeping Your Employees Safe
Even as many manufacturers close their doors in a wise abundance of caution or as the result of shelter-in-place orders, many remain open in order to supply essential equipment, services, or products. For employers, the situation on the ground can be dizzying in terms of keeping workers safe when production lines must continue running.
In order to provide guidance on what Environmental Health and Safety leaders should know about protecting employees from COVID-19, IndustryWeek sister publication EHS Today has produced a webinar featuring practical steps to stem the spread of the virus. The webinar is available on-demand at the EHS Today web site.
Is the Coronavirus a Turning Point for Manufacturing?
As manufacturers close plants and revolutionize safety procedures to survive in the short term, Stephen Liozu sees the outbreak as a “significant structural break” for a sector that may have depended too much on globalized supply chains and too little on direct-to-customer (D2C) models and cash flow.
“Over the past week, consultants have written extensively about how to maneuver this crisis and how to manage the business short-term,” says Liozu. The COVID-19 pandemic, he says, is also a reset opportunity. Read the full story here.
Manufacturers Doing Their Part
The week of March 27 saw many manufacturers announce they would donate goods, services, supply lines, and parts to the COVID-19 effort, and Friday was no different. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, hundreds of manufacturing companies have provided gloves, gowns, and face masks pro bono to hospitals and FEMA.
PPG, the Pittsburgh-based paint and coatings company, announced today they would donate 80,000 disposable N95 masks to hospitals in Pittsburgh, New York, Cleveland, Detroit, and Huntsville, Alabama. Fiat-Chrysler, in an email, claimed that machinery necessary to convert the first of their plants to producing medical equipment had been delivered, and that mask production was moving as quickly as possible. And Toyota Motors announced it would start mass production of face shields early next week for hospitals near its factories in Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Texas. Read the full story here.