NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A 15th case of COVID-19 has been reported at Newport News Shipbuilding as of Tuesday.
The shipyard remains open and now employees are being encouraged to wear masks or face coverings.
Two of the recent cases involve employees who were reported positive one day after they last reported to work, according to information reported on the shipyard's website.
Newport News Shipbuilding says positive cases can now be diagnosed through clinical diagnosis and not just positive test results, which expanded the CDC guidance for positive cases. They say any ill employees are told to stay home.
The President of the United Steelworkers Union 8888 says he's been fielding calls from concerned employees. "People are concerned because of the rapid spread of the virus," said Charles Spivey. "When they come to work, they’re concerned about social distancing. They had a big concern about wearing masks in the shipyard."
Jennifer Boykin, the President of Newport News Shipbuilding, says the shipyard is in the process of buying employees face coverings, but expects it will a few days given the high demand for masks.
Newport News Shipbuilding says their work is considered essential, so they will remain open. "We're committed to continuing to do this important work while continuing to safeguard our workforce. Importantly, staying operational also will help propel the economic recovery for our country that will be vital to each and every American," they said in a statement.
Spivey isn't calling for the shipyard to shut down, but says all options must remain on the table if there's a major outbreak. "I'm not telling them to shut down, but I don't want the company, the country, or the government to say we cannot shut down," he said.
As the pandemic continues, the union is in talks with the shipyard. "I believe we’ve got the company’s ear and attention that we are concerned," said Spivey. "I believe they're responding as they can."