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Second COVID-19 case at Sumitomo Dunlop plant

Factory is now closed temporarily
Posted at 12:12 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 19:12:16-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As the Sumitomo Dunlop tire plant closes temporarily for the COVID-19 epidemic, there is a second confirmed case of coronavirus by a factory worker.

"We were informed this afternoon that a Material Handling team member tested positive from COVID when getting a checkup at their personal medical facility," company officials said in a statement to employees on April 17. "This Team Member did not show up to work when he/she felt sick originally. He/She called off prior to coming to work. Through an interview with this team member, he/she stated he/she had no interactions where social distancing wasn't active & he/she had no interactions with people we should notify."

The statement went on to say that the company is "quarantining anyone who came in contact with his/her equipment on a precautionary basis." Click here to read the full statement to employees.

Sumitomo HR director Russell Pustulka told 7 Eyewitness News in a statement: "For any potential positive test for COVID-19, SRUSA reacts quickly and takes all appropriate actions, including guidance from and communications to local health departments. We further remain transparent with all actions and communicate internally to ensure all team members and ensure all are kept up-to-date."

Last week, the company revealed that a different employee tested positive for the virus.

The Japanese tire-maker announced April 9 that it was closing the Town of Tonawanda factory for two weeks starting on April 20 out of precaution for the community spread of COVID-19.

The move followed reporting by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team in which multiple employees voiced concerns about why the plant was not shutting down during a global pandemic.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz had also voiced concerns about the plant staying open at a time when public health officials nationwide are urging people to stay home and avoid contact with others.

It also came three days after the New York State Attorney General's Office started looking into the tiremaker after receiving complaints of "unsafe working conditions" at the factory.

Company officials have repeatedly stated that they are an "essential" business to the transportation industry and have taken safety precautions to protect their employees.