Despite American carmakers and the United Auto Workers abandoning mask mandates at the end of June, there’s been an about-face in Wentzville, Missouri. The state witnessed an uptick of cases, encouraging both the UAW and General Motors to reintroduce masks and social distancing protocols.
The facility is responsible for the GMC Canyon and Savana, as well as Chevrolet’s Silverado and Express. It’s also likely to be the first facility of many we’re assuming will be told it’s time to go back to the old masking rules. But why is this happening so soon after everyone was given the green light to return to normal operations?
According to a safety alert intercepted by The Detroit Free Press, Wentzville staffers were informed of the changes on Monday. While temperature checks will not be returning, employees (even those that have been vaccinated) will be required to wear masks to do their job.
“We have been informed by the company and UAW International that based on the severe upward trend of COVID cases in the surrounding areas all GM Wentzville Assembly Center employees will be once again required to wear masks upon entering the plant starting tonight with third shift employees,” states the alert.
But the “severe upward trend of COVID cases” isn’t as dire as one might assume. The New York Times has kept a running tally of cases and deaths between states. Missouri’s death rates really aren’t any worse than they were in May when everyone decided it was time to consider dropping safety protocols. Weekly averages from July represent fatalities in the single digits or low teens, which is practically identical to what we saw in June.
But new cases have increased, with the state seeing infections double among both the vaccinated and unvaccinated over the last several weeks. Averages remain smaller than they were over the cold weather months. But the spike has spooked quadrants of business and the government, especially since those new cases include both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. The good news is that severe cases are pretty rare across the board, with fatalities being a minuscule representation of the whole. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have prevented leadership from restoring prohibitive measures nobody on the ground seems overly fond of.
That said, Missouri’s infection rates are a bit higher than the national average. Some are undoubtedly hoping that these health and safety protocols will be a temporary, isolated matter. But we’ve seen California beginning to signal that it’s considering mandatory statewide masking after witnessing a similar uptick in new cases. Experts are blaming the delta variant of COVID-19 — which has the same great taste but is less filling.
While there’s been some debate on its severity, the overall effectiveness of vaccinations, and the general utility of masking, officials believe it’s likely more contagious and remain steadfast that increasing vaccinations and deploying social distancing measures remain the best solutions. We’re not sure how this one progresses but are doubting this will be the last time you read about safety restrictions and evolving factory protocols.
[Image: Miljan Zivkovic/Shutterstock]