NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - As businesses across Hampton Roads have closed over the past month-and-a-half, Newport News Shipbuilding remains open.
Their work is considered essential, and as the time goes by they're updating their procedures, including changing from three shifts to two shifts. There will be a cleaning period in between the shifts.
"We're cleaning around the clock. The shift change will allow deep cleaning in between those shifts," said Jennifer Boykin, the President of Newport News Shipbuilding.
In addition, employees will now have their temperatures taken before they go through the gates. Anyone with a temperature 100 or above will be sent home. "We're very confident that this approach does provide that next layer of safety and security for all of our shipbuilders," said Boykin.
There have been 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Newport News Shipbuilding with 13 people allowed to return to work.
While some have questioned why the shipyard hasn't closed, Boykin said it's not feasible. "There's really not one decision that we could make that's best for all 25,000 shipbuilders," she said. "We believed from the beginning that giving employees liberal leave is the best option for them and enables the business to continue."
Thousands of employees are working from home. Those on-site have to wear masks and potentially other protective equipment. They've also tried to change up how some tasks are performed, but social distancing isn't always possible for some work. If that's the case, they give the employees options.
"Every employee has the option to choose not to do that if they're uncomfortable," said Boykin.
Boykin found a memo from 1918 from Newport News Shipbuilding about the danger of the Spanish influenza where many of the same guidelines were suggested as today.