Just barely two weeks after lowering mask mandates in most areas of the United States, the Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused a resurgence of infections in the nation. In Florida, new cases have risen from barely 1,000 per day in mid-June to more than 38,000 cases on July 27. On that cause for concern, Ford has once again reinstated the policy for workers in Florida to wear masks.

Ford’s corporate presence in the state will apply to workers in a parts distribution center as well as employees in a finance-related office. Their workforce in Florida is small compared to its Michigan-based hub, yet the carmaker’s mandate sets a tone.

In addition, Missouri facilities operated by Ford will also resume mandating mask usage such as the Ford Kansas City Assembly plant. While not an outbreak of the same magnitude as in Florida and certain other states, Missouri has experienced hotspots of infections related to the highly transmissible and more aggressive Delta strain.

The statement from Ford said, “With a data-driven approach to our global Covid-19 protocols and the increase in cases in specific US regions, Ford is reinstating face mask protocols in select states. We will continue to evaluate Covid-19 case data to make further protocol changes.”

As infection rates surge once again in the nation, it’s probable that additional facilities will have their mask policies reinstated.

Vaccine required for travel

Along with mask use, Ford is also requiring any employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to travel internationally on business. The requirement applies to a select number of staff who need to travel across borders, but it signals the carmaker’s commitment to safety by preventing possible transmission of the virus. In the emailed statement, spokesperson Kelli Felker wrote that the mandate is “due to the potential of increased exposure to COVID-19. Ford continues to strongly encourage all team members who are medically able to be vaccinated.”

GM Wentzville already masked up

Those working at the GM Wentzville plant are familiar with the policy as their facility resumed its mask mandate, just eight days after vaccinated employees were allowed to ditch their face coverings. GM spokesperson Dan Flores said in the statement, “After review of our community and state data, it has been determined Wentzville Assembly will return to mandatory mask usage for all employees and everyone entering the plant beginning 3rd shift Tuesday, July 20 (Monday night start). This reinstatement of the mask requirement is to protect our employees’ health and safety.”

On Tuesday, the CDC suggested that the Delta variant could be transmitted by vaccinated people to others. With higher transmissibility and case counts rising, President Biden is expected to announce that federal government staff must be vaccinated, following a similar mandate by New York City and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For the auto retail industry, it appears the probability is high for a return to restrictions in some capacity, including mask mandates. It’s a good idea to revisit policies regularly and communicate with your staff to ensure everything is being done to promote safety and prevent transmission. Keep abreast of local restrictions and mandates as well as federal recommendations to carve out your store’s policy, and make it clear to staff and customers alike.

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