RACINE, WI – InSinkErator temporarily closed its production facilities at 4700 21st Street in Racine and at 5612 95th Avenue in Kenosha on Monday after a total of five employees tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
The closure was the second in less than a week for the Racine plant, which shut down for a deep cleaning last Thursday (May 7) in response to two confirmed COVID-19 cases. The facility resumed operations, as planned, on Monday morning but closed prior to the start of the second shift in the afternoon.
InSinkErator, a manufacturer of garbage disposals, is owned by Emerson Electric Co. of Missouri. The Racine and Kenosha plants are considered an essential business and have been allowed to operate during the coronavirus outbreak.
In a written statement, Emerson spokesperson David Baldridge confirmed Monday’s closures.
“We received reports today that four employees at our InSinkErator 21st Street facility in Racine and one employee at our Kenosha production facility tested positive for COVID-19. The safety and health of our employees is Emerson’s top priority. We temporarily closed the Racine and Kenosha facilities as of second shift today, May 11, to track and quarantine employees who came in close contact with those positive cases.”
The statement added that both of the facilities had “already been cleaned and sanitized” since the individuals who had tested positive had last been at work.
Baldridge stated that the plants are expected to reopen within the next two or three days and that all employees “will receive pay based on their schedules.”
“We are also adjusting our operations to reduce employee contact while continuing social distancing along with other safety measures we have already implemented to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” he stated.
The sudden closure in Racine on Monday caught employees by surprise. A worker told the Racine County Eye that company security personnel intercepted arriving second-shift workers in the parking lot and told them to return home because the shift was canceled. Workers later received an automated telephone message reporting that because of additional COVID-19 cases, the plant would be closed for two to three days.
InSinkErator has been dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks for more than a month. On April 20, InSinkErator President Joe Dillon told staff in a letter that two employees from the 21st Street plant had tested positive for COVID-19 but they hadn’t been in the facility since March 24 and were both out on leaves of absence before experiencing symptoms. The following day, he reported to staff in a letter that a vendor had tested positive for COVID-19. That individual had not been in the facility since April 11 and had not been in close contact with InSinkErator employees.
Last Thursday afternoon, 21st Street abruptly closed after two employees tested positive for COVID-19. In a written statement issued at the time, the company spokesperson reported that there would be “deep cleaning and sanitizing of the entire plant by a professional cleaning service.”
With Monday’s announcement, eight employees and one vendor at the InSinkErator Racine plant have tested positive for COVID-19.
According to statistics compiled by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) on Monday, Racine and Kenosha counties, respectively, had the third and fourth highest reported numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in the state.
Racine County had 724 positive cases and 3,821 negative cases among individuals who had been tested. There had been 16 deaths related to the virus as of Monday.
Kenosha County, as of Monday reported that 693 individuals had tested positive and 3,503 had tested negative. The county has had 16 deaths related to COVID-19.
Milwaukee County had the highest number of positive COVID-19 tests in the state at 4,022 as of Monday, the DHS reported. There were 21,922 negative tests and 231 deaths attributed to the virus.
Brown County reported the second-highest number of positive COVID-19 tests with 1,924. The county had 5,998 negative tests and 18 related deaths as of Monday.
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