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UPDATE: Lear factory has second presumed case of coronavirus, will be closed through March 30
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UPDATE: Lear factory has second presumed case of coronavirus, will be closed through March 30

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Lear factory has second case of coronavirus

The Lear factory in Hammond had one positive and one presumed case of coronavirus.

HAMMOND — The Lear Corp. seat-making factory has reported a second case of coronavirus, and will remain closed for cleaning until at least March 30. It's not clear if employees will be paid.

“We can confirm that we were notified of one positive case and one presumed case of COVID-19 at our Hammond, IN, facility," a Lear spokesperson said. "These employees worked on the same shift and were most recently in the facility late last week. After experiencing flu-like symptoms over the weekend, the employees — one salaried and one hourly — visited their health care provider for treatment and have not returned to work."

Southfield, Michigan-based Lear shut down its 240,000-square-foot, Tier 1 auto supplier plant at 2204 Michigan St. Tuesday afternoon for a deep-cleaning, and the night shift was told not to come in.

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"Following our protocol, we swiftly notified our employees, UAW partners and customers and we made the decision to close the Hammond facility for deep cleaning and disinfection," the Lear spokesperson said in a statement. "We continue to provide real-time health and safety guidance and take comprehensive preventative steps within our operations. We are working closely with local public health authorities, and extend our support and best wishes for a full recovery to our affected coworkers.”

The Lear plant employs about 875 workers, who make seats for the Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle and other vehicles manufactured at the Chicago Assembly Plant just across the state line in Chicago's Hegewisch neighborhood. It's a crucial link in the automotive supply chain for Ford's just-in-time manufacturing operation, which does not stockpile parts but rather installs them in vehicles almost as soon as they're unloaded from semi-trucks in the loading bay.

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Without any seats to put in SUVs, Ford had to temporarily suspend operations at the Chicago Assembly Plant Tuesday.

United Auto Workers Local 2335 has told its members the plant would be closed until at least March 30.

"Under no circumstances is any member to enter the building due to it being disinfected," the union said in a social media post. "We as an executive board and bargaining committee are still in conversations to handle all issues of our membership. we are aware of the financial hardships facing our members and we are in active conversations regarding pay for this time frame."

The United Auto Workers union also got Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler to agree to do a shutdown of their auto plants across the country to allow for deep cleaning and disinfecting to protect factory workers from the fast-spreading coronavirus. 

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"As you know, the UAW has strongly requested that the Big 3 automakers cease production for the next two weeks to safeguard our members, the workforce that makes their products and our communities," UAW said in a statement. "We spent hours tonight in talks with the leadership of the Big 3, demanding that they do the right thing for our members. All three companies have agreed to new measures that will increase adherence to CDC recommendations on social distancing in the workplace. Most importantly, all three companies have agreed to review and implement the rotating partial shutdown of facilities, extensive deep cleaning of facility and equipment between shifts, extended periods between shifts, and extensive plans to avoid member contact. They will be working on shift rotation to minimize risk."

Gallery: Lear Corporation breaks ground on new Hammond facility

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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