Bridgestone Americas, which owns the Nashville-based tire company, announced April 9 that it would seek to re-open its North American commercial tire factories by April 13 as well as its Firestone industrial and building product plants. The company’s Latin America plants and its passenger tire plants are currently scheduled to resume production by the first week of May or sooner. The plants were shut down in order to reduce transmission of the novel COVID-19 virus.
In a statement, Bridgestone Americas CEO Paolo Ferrari said that resuming production would allow the tire manufacturer “to meet the increasing needs of businesses who are going above and beyond to provide essential services in our communities.” Plants working for Bridgestone’s Bandag brand, headquartered in Muscatine, Iowa, have been open since last week, “due to demand by essential service providers,” says Bridgestone. Bandag produces retread rubber products.
Ferrari says Bridgestone will be abiding by guidelines set out by the Center for Disease Control yesterday on permitting critical infrastructure workers to return to work. The CDC’s guidance includes directions for employers to clean commonly touched surfaces more often, test face masks to see if they can be worn without interfering with work, increase air exchanges in facilities, and keep employees physically distant. Additionally, the guidance advised employers to measure their employees temperatures and check for basic symptoms when the employees arrive at work, ideally “before the individual enters the facility.”
Bridgestone Americas closed all of its North American facilities the weekend of March 21. At the time, the company said it would reopen normal operations “on or before” April 12. The April 9 announcement puts Bridgestone’s commercial tire production and Firestone brand products on roughly the original planned schedule but leaves two more weeks of shutdown for its passenger tire plants.
Amid signs that social distancing is proving effective at reducing transmission rates, the federal government has signaled that it is beginning to think about what Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases called a “re-entry into normality.” The CDC guidelines released April 8 reflected the uncomfortable balancing act faced by the government and manufacturers today: how to balance the safety of the population with the health of an economy badly bruised by quarantines.