BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Earlier this year, employees at the Dunlop tire plant in the Town of Tonawanda called the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team with concerns of possible exposure to COVID-19.
Parent company Sumitomo Rubber in March said there was no need to shut down operations for the pandemic because the plant was designated by the federal government as an “essential business,” but in April the company reversed course and closed for two weeks.
Sumitomo Dunlop has been open since, but with COVID-19 cases in Western New York peaking, the I-Team is again hearing from employees who say there have been new outbreaks at the plant.
In late August, one employee told us, “Sumitomo has had 4 positive cases in the last week.”
Two days later, another worker said, “the management team did not follow CDC guidelines...There will be a rapid test event tomorrow in our parking lot to test employees...It is purely reactive not proactive.”
Also on Sept. 2, an employee wrote, “We are now up to eight positive in one department at the plant...The company has ceased operations in my department until everybody gets their test results back.”
Sumitomo Vice President Russell Pustulka said in a statement, “We have 14 active cases as of today’s date, all quarantined at home. The number fluctuates, but for long periods runs at zero. We do everything we can to control the spread and keep that number at zero. Our cleaning, maintenance and covid safety practices exceed county, state and cdc recommendations and guidelines.” Click here to read the full statement.
Erie County health officials refused to say how many positive cases it has confirmed at the Dunlop plant, or whether Sumitomo has contributed to the region’s uptick in cases.
Health department spokeswoman Kara Kane said in a statement, “our department will make announcements about the potential COVID-19 exposures when our case investigations are not able to identify and notify close contacts of a positive case.”