01STOCK_CORONAVIRUS04

JANESVILLE

Janesville manufacturer Hufcor is wrestling with an apparent COVID-19 outbreak that prompted the company to shut down its plant last week and require its workers to seek coronavirus testing.

In a June 11 company memo obtained by The Gazette, Hufcor told its Janesville employees they were required to report back to work Monday morning.

But the memo noted all workers had to provide the company with test results that showed they were free of coronavirus infection before they could return to the northeast-side plant.

“Every person who walks through the door will need to have provided proof of a negative test result from a test administered in the previous week. If you have not or cannot provide proof of a negative test result, you will not be permitted inside the building until you are able to provide said document,” part of the memo reads.

Hufcor manufactures moveable room partitions. According to the memo, the company told all employees as of June 8 they would need to get tested for COVID-19 or communicate with the human resources office if they had trouble getting a test scheduled.

The memo included information on where workers could get a test, including a health care clinic in Machesney Park, Illinois—a facility Hufcor officials said could issue COVID-19 test results “in as little as 15 minutes for those who are asymptomatic.”

Hufcor’s memo lists the restrictions employees will face upon returning to work a week after the plant had shut down temporarily, including mandatory face shields or surgical masks and safety glasses. Some office workers were told to consider working from home if possible.

It’s not clear when the plant’s management decided to temporarily close the facility, and Hufcor in its memo did not address how many of its workers might have been exposed or were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.

A Hufcor executive did not immediately respond to a reporter’s message seeking comment on the closure and reopening and how many employees were affected.

The Gazette inquired about the Hufcor shutdown in phone calls and an email to the Rock County Public Health Department on Monday. An official said the department was reviewing the inquiry, but as of late Monday, the department had issued no further response.

Last week, the health department announced that public health data indicated that Rock County had met enough health benchmarks to clear the county for phase two of reopening.

The county continues to urge residents and businesses to follow physical distancing guidelines and encourages retail businesses to limit occupancy. Those guidelines aren’t mandates and aren’t enforceable, county officials have said.

Hufcor laid out in the memo its own reopening guidelines, including a plan to limit most plant employees to assigned work and break areas.

The company thanked workers for their “flexibility and understanding” regarding the closure.

“We never want to stop production and affect our customers in a negative way if it can be avoided, but the health and safety of our employees is and will continue to be our top priority,” the memo reads.

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