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Five employees at DuPont's Chesterfield plant have tested positive for the coronavirus; plant operations continue

Five employees at DuPont's Chesterfield plant have tested positive for the coronavirus; plant operations continue

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DuPont, which operates one of the Richmond region’s largest manufacturing plants, confirmed Monday that five local employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, but the company’s local manufacturing operations are still functioning.

All five employees who tested positive for COVID-19 are “quarantined and recovering,” DuPont spokesman Ryan Smartt said.

“We have not made any adjustments to our workforce at this time,” Smartt said. “Employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are being quarantined continue to be paid. We continue to monitor and respond to the situation and will adjust our plans and protocols as needed.”

The Wilmington, Del.-based industrial company’s largest U.S. factory, called the Spruance plant, is on Jefferson Davis Highway in Chesterfield County. The factory employs about 2,200 people, including about 1,800 DuPont employees and several hundred contractors.

The production areas for Tyvek, Kevlar and Nomex are all operating, the spokesman said.

Those products are deemed “essential” during the coronavirus outbreak, including Tyvek, a water and microbial-resistant material used in a variety of applications, including protective personal garments worn by first responders and medical professionals.

The company reported in March that it was responding to a surge in demand for Tyvek apparel because of the coronavirus outbreak, and that production of Tyvek had increased about 20% so far this year compared with the same period last year.

The plant also makes the bullet-resistant material Kevlar and the fire-resistant material Nomex, used by the military, police officers and firefighters, as well as in industrial environments.

“The safety and well-being of our employees continues to be our top priority,” Smartt said in an emailed response to questions. “We have implemented safety plans and protocols based on World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control guidelines and recommendations to help prevent the spread of the virus, and to ensure we continue providing a safe and healthy workplace for our essential employees.”

The company said that all employees who are not needed for the continuous operation of its manufacturing processes are now working from home.

“We have limited visits to the site, and are practicing social distancing and sanitizing common areas in the plant more frequently,” Smartt said.

DuPont is at least the third manufacturing plant in Virginia that has been hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Cigarette maker Philip Morris USA, a subsidiary of Henrico County-based tobacco giant Altria Group Inc., announced on March 19 that it was suspending operations for two weeks at its cigarette factory just off Interstate 95 after two employees tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, Altria’s chairman and chief executive officer, Howard A. Willard III, was diagnosed as having the virus that causes COVID-19 and temporarily stepped aside from his job for medical leave.

Altria said it would restart operations at the plant this week with a limited staff. Employees must complete a health questionnaire before they return to work. Anyone entering the factory will first need to stop at an off-site location to get his or her temperature checked.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. also has temporarily suspended operations at its factory in Danville due to a sudden decline in market demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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