Kemp at Hitachi

Stephen Poulter, right, a production director at Hitachi in Monroe, leads Gov. Brian Kemp on a tour of the auto supplier Monday morning. The governor brought his Georgia Made tour to Walton County as he highlights the impact of industries on local economies across the state.

MONROE, Ga. — Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, where one of its Monroe employees has tested positive for COVID-19, will suspend manufacturing operations for at least a few days.

In a letter to community partners, Craig Fisher, a senior vice president with the company said Hitachi has suspended “some manufacturing operations” at U.S. facilities at least into the coming week.

“With regards to our business we will make every effort [to] minimize disruption, however as our customers make adjustments to their businesses, such as the temporary factory suspensions announced earlier this week, we must review and adjust our operations and workforce accordingly,” Fisher wrote.

Some production lines will continue, and deep cleaning and maintenance will take place in other areas.

Fisher said facilities in Monroe will be closed Saturday through Tuesday with selected lines going back up on Wednesday.

“We are paying employees for any work missed during this time,” Fisher told The Walton Tribune.

The company told Monroe employees Monday night that a co-worker had tested positive for COVID-19. The employee called in sick March 11 and notified the company of the positive diagnosis Monday.

The worker helped to identify co-workers with whom he or she might have come in contact.

Mayor John Howard later said the Hitachi employee lives in Gwinnett County. No Walton County residents had tested positive for COVID-19 as of noon Tuesday, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

As part of its efforts to keep workers safe, the company this week instituted several “risk mitigation measures” to offset the worldwide pandemic. They include prohibition of overseas trips and a significant restriction of domestic travel.

Long-distance meetings will be done by teleconference instead of in person, and social distancing and spacing guidelines are in place for all company guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested people keep a distance of 6 feet and gather in crowds of no more than 10 to reduce the risk of infection.

All employees returning to the U.S. from the home office of Hitachi must self-quarantine and work from home for 14 days and complete a health screening questionnaire before returning to their facility.

Contractors and visitors to Hitachi facilities, including employees from other sites, must complete a screening questionnaire to determine if they have visited a high-risk country in the past 14 days, have had close contact with anybody who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or have symptoms.

The company said it is offering hand sanitizing stations, allowing employees the chance to work from home if possible, encouraging employees who feel sick to stay home and reminding workers about health care and hygiene rules.

Gov. Brian Kemp has declared a public health emergency in Georgia, where 420 people had been diagnosed with the illness and 13 people had died from it as of noon Friday.

Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas employs about 900 people in the automotive parts business at its plant at the corner of U.S. 78 and Unisia Drive in the Piedmont Regional Industrial Park.