Newport News Shipbuilding now has 23 positive cases of the coronavirus. Here’s what they’re doing about it

In the past week, Newport News Shipbuilding has confirmed four additional cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) since April 8.

The first employee, confirmed on April 9, worked at the Ship at Pier 3, Space: 03-220-3-L, South Yard and was last on company property April 8.

The second case was reported April 10 and the employee worked at Trailer 127 & Building 4677/MOF Bay 2, Mid-Yard. The individual was last on company property April 8.

The third employee worked at Building 1877/PUAF, North Yard and was last on company property March 27. The case was confirmed on Monday, according to the shipyard’s website.

The most recent case which was confirmed Wednesday — an employee at Building 67-2, South Yard and was last on company property March 31.

There are now a total of 23 cases at NNS: 8 cases in Off-Yard Offices, 8 in the Mid-Yard, 4 in the North Yard and 3 in the South Yard.

Social distancing

According to an April 9 letter from Jennifer Boykin, president of NNS, 120 people were quarantined because of the 19 confirmed cases and half of the cases were from two confirmed cases.

One employee was riding with other coworkers before they tested positive, another employee who stayed home with viral symptoms was visited by coworkers and almost half of the confirmed cases were employees working in an office and/or outside the shipyard, Boykin said.

Effective Monday, Boykin wrote all employees need to wear a masks, shift changes would be staggered by 20 minutes instead of 10 minutes and markings would be used to widen walkways and serve as “visual cues” for gathering places such as lunch and smoking areas.

Hand sanitizer

NNS announced Monday employees could get hand sanitizers made by Ironclad Distillery and once used, shipbuilders could return the empty bottles for refills.

“For the safety of shipbuilders, 4-ounce bottles cannot be near hot work or go shipboard due to flammability,” according to the NNS’ Currents publication. “However, 2-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer are currently in the procurement process for shipboard usage.”

Mask use

“We are purchasing face coverings for all employees, but given the high demand and limited supply across the U.S., it will take a couple of days to get them in the yard and distributed,” Boykin wrote in a letter on April 6.

Boykin noted in the same letter the shipyard’s Sail Loft team produced and distributed more than 1,000 masks to employees and gave shipbuilders fabric to create their own masks. Once the purchased masks were available, the company would distribute them to their employees.

“In our ongoing and aggressive efforts to keep our employees as safe as possible, today we distributed approximately 3,200 face coverings to employees, of which 1,700 were the reusable, cloth face coverings we obtained from a local supplier,” Duane Bourne, NNS spokesman, wrote in an email Wednesday. “In all, we have distributed more than 15,200 Newport News Shipbuilding-made and purchased face coverings to employees.”

NNS employs more than 23,000 employees, according to their website.

As of Wednesday, James City County has 132 positive cases of the coronavirus, Newport News has 95, Hampton has 75, York County has 35, Williamsburg has 19 and Poquoson has 6, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

The Hampton VA Medical Center now has a total of 35 positive cases: 12 are inpatient and 23 are outpatient, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) section of the Public Health website.

There are now 6,500 positive cases and 195 deaths statewide. At least eight people from the Peninsula Health District and one person from the Hampton Heath District have died from the coronavirus.

The Peninsula Health District covers Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County and York County. The Hampton Health District covers Hampton.

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