Richmond plant closes amid coronavirus, other workers wait to see if their employers will too

Richmond plant closes amid coronavirus, other workers wait to see if their employers will too

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Thursday, cigarette and tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris announced it will close for two weeks after two employees tested positive for Coronavirus. The thousands of people who work at one of the city’s largest employers will still get paid.

The company’s decision finds workers at other major companies in Central Virginia asking if their employers will do the same.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, numerous NBC12 viewers have called into the newsroom, concerned that their companies have not taken any action to keep them distant from other employees.

"Studies have shown that within 6 feet when people cough or when they sneeze, that’s where the majority of those droplets are going,” said Dr. William Lunn of Chippenham and Johnston Willis hospitals.

It’s causing Coronavirus to spread fast.

"We’re working in close quarters still with over 100 people on the same floor and we’re still working side by side,” said a woman who asked not to be identified. She works at a Central Virginia call center. "It could be anywhere from 30 to 40 people in just one area in one section of the floor…If you can give us a few days to go home while you figure out, that’s better than making us come to work…It’s not that we don’t want to work. We just know we shouldn’t be together,” the employee added.

It’s a concept that led one company to make a major move by sending employees home, but will other large companies follow suit?

"We don't mind doing what we do. We love that but we want to be able to do it in a safe environment," the employee added.

In Pennsylvania, leaders ordered all businesses that don’t offer "life-sustaining” work to close their doors altogether. If they don’t, businesses could be fined or lose their license to operate. Such a move has not come up in Virginia, though the recommendation to continue social distancing remains.

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