Production at TPI Composites will be put on hold until the middle of next week in order to deep clean the facility and test all employees for COVID-19, the company announced in a press release Thursday morning.
This past week, the Newton-based wind blade manufacturing plant confirmed 28 new cases of COVID-19 among its workforce of more than 1,000 people. About two weeks ago, Newton News reported only two workers had tested positive.
All TPI associates will be paid during the production pause.
Coupled with the increased COVID-19 levels in Jasper, Marshall and Polk Counties, TPI said it would collaborate alongside the State of Iowa and its recently announced “Test Iowa” program to administer testing for its employees.
On Tuesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds launched the initiative in an effort to expand testing capacity and limit the community spread of COVID-19 in the state. Iowa is the second state — behind Utah — to deploy this type of plan.
TPI says it proactively reached out to the governor’s office “to discuss establishing an enhanced COVID-19 testing plan.” In the interim, TPI workers will be provided with extra protective masks for their family members to use at home.
Since early March, TPI said its Newton plant has implemented best practices learned from the company’s operations in China during the COVID-19 outbreak in January and February. Preventative measures were similar to other businesses across the country and state.
Josh Syhlman, general manager of TPI Iowa, previously told Newton News workers are temperature screened before entering the plant, 2300 N. 33rd Ave. E. Anyone with a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit was not allowed in.
Visitors must be approved by Syhlman before they are permitted inside the building. Meanwhile, about 50 employees at TPI — the largest employer in Jasper County — have been able to work remotely from their homes.
Still, most employees are required to work on-site to manufacture the composite wind turbine blades for General Electric.
The nature of the manufacturing work lends itself well to social distancing since the blades are so large. When social distancing is not practical, Syhlman said workers are required to wear personal protective equipment. TPI also said it disinfects the entire facility at least once per day.
“The health and safety of our associates and the communities in which they live and work is our top priority, and we feel strongly this is the right action to support associates and their families and to help prevent further community spread in Iowa,” Syhlman said in the press release.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or email@example.com