CORONAVIRUS

Procter and Gamble in Iowa City, Nordstrom center in Cedar Rapids employees test positive for COVID-19

Procter and Gamble is seen in Iowa City. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Procter and Gamble is seen in Iowa City. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Two more Corridor companies have sent home employees who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Procter and Gamble and Nordstrom each employ more than 1,000 people in the Corridor, according to the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

A worker at P&G’s Iowa City facility on March 19 was sent home for 14 days after reporting contact with a COVID-19 patient, according to company emails to employees that were viewed by The Gazette.

When that employee tested positive two days later, on March 21, P&G sent home for 14 days 11 other workers who were determined to have interacted with the employee between March 18 and 19.

In addition, at least three employees at the facility’s analytical lab exhibited one or more COVID-19 symptoms and were sent home between March 25 and Monday.

A fourth employee developed one or more symptoms at home after working in the lab Sunday.

“Protecting the health and well-being of our employees is our top priority and we treat every potential case of COVID-19 with an abundance of caution and urgency, informed by guidance from our in-house team of medical experts and in accordance with CDC recommendations,” P&G spokeswoman Erica Noble said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

“Our Iowa City facility has one confirmed case of COVID-19; this individual immediately self-isolated as soon as we learned of their exposure from outside the facility,” she said. “The facility remains fully operational with continued implementation of our health and safety measures.”

Starting March 23, P&G began taking temperatures of and screening personnel upon arrival, according to a site message provided to employees.

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P&G also began issuing two masks a day to employees “who cannot maintain adequate social distancing in their work,” citing in the message an expected limited supply of masks through late April.

Employees with one or more COVID-19 symptoms were instructed to stay home.

An employee Q&A says P&G operations have been classified as “essential” in that the company makes “products that are important to consumers maintaining good health and hygiene, which is important in controlling the spread of disease and preventing infection.”

Products manufactured at P&G’s Iowa City facility including shampoos, body washes and oral care brands.

Noble said the Iowa City facility also soon will become one of five P&G manufacturing sites worldwide to begin producing hand sanitizer for hospitals, health authorities and relief organizations. P&G already has provided supplies to Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids and donated more than 6,000 empty bottles and pumps for University of Iowa Health Care to fill with hand sanitizer for staff, she said.

“This is just a start, and we are committed to be there for our people, our consumers and our communities as this global health crisis evolves,” Noble said.

At Nordstrom’s fulfillment center in Cedar Rapids, officials said on Tuesday they learned an employee had tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email to employees.

That employee had not been in the fulfillment center since March 26, and currently is getting treatment and will remain home.

A different Nordstrom employee, who most recently was in the center March 28, was determined to have been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient. Though not showing symptoms, that employee, too, has been directed to stay home for two weeks.

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“Your health and safety is our top priority,” Nordstrom’s message said. “We’re connecting with employees who have had close contact (six feet or less) with either of these employees to make them aware and have them quarantine where needed.”

Nordstrom on Tuesday temporarily closed its fulfillment center to undergo a “thorough deep cleaning by a professional cleaning company,” another email said.

Company spokeswoman Emily Sterken said in an email Wednesday that the building is expected to reopen on Thursday. The brief closure will not have a significant impact on Nordstrom’s ability to serve customers, she added.

“The health of our employees is a priority, and we take seriously the responsibility we have to create a safe work environment,” Sterken said. “We’ve put additional precautions in place, including additional cleaning, adjustments to allow for social distancing between employees and resources to help them stay healthy.”

Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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