A Panasonic worker working at Tesla’s solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, tested positive for the new coronavirus last month,media outlet The Verge reported. This is the fourth known new coronavirus infection at Tesla’s U.S. plant, with three others from the Super plant in Nevada and the California plant, the former being the latter two.
It is not clear when the worker received a positive test, but the plant’s workers received an email on March 28. A spokesman for Panasonic North America told The Verge on Wednesday that the company didn’t learn that the employee’s new coronavirus tested positive until the weekend, just before the email was sent.
According to an email provided to The Verge by an employee who did not want to be named, the infected worker sat out of the office after March 17. On March 20th Panasonic announced plans to close its New York plant for two weeks. One of the emails said the shutdown had now been extended to April 19 and could be extended. Tesla has also temporarily shut down operations at its New York plant, but CEO Elon Musk says he wants to reopen the plant as soon as possible so it can start producing ventilators — possibly working with medical technology company Medtronic.
A Panasonic human resources executive told employees in an email on March 28 that the company had conducted a thorough contact tracking and notified all employees who had close contact with the infected workers on March 17. Prior to the plant’s closure, the company also performed a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the worker’s workstation. It was not immediately clear whether Panasonic had previously notified any employees who had contact with infected workers, as the company gave no further details other than a statement.
Just days before the shutdown, Mark Shima, president of Panasonic Sun North America (PSNA), told workers to return to Japan before the visa expires on April 1. He also told staff that he would have a few things to deal with in Japan and would have to undergo new coronavirus isolation upon his return, so his next return to THE PSNA will have to wait at least until about April 27. Shima said he would work remotely in Japan or Buffalo during this time.