By David Shepardson
(Reuters) - General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler parent Stellantis NV said on Sunday they are reinstating a requirement that employees wear masks in southeastern Michigan where there are high levels of COVID-19.
The Detroit Three automakers said in early March they would allow auto workers to stop wearing masks at workplaces where U.S. health officials said it was safe to do so.
That month, the automakers said they would adopt revised guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allowing workers at U.S. facilities to not wear masks regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, if those facilities were not in high-risk counties.
The masking guidelines issued in February shifted from a focus on the rate of COVID-19 transmission to monitoring local hospitalizations, hospital capacity and infection rates.
Six counties in southeastern Michigan - including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw - are again listed by the CDC as having high COVID-19 levels. The CDC recommends wearing masks indoors in public settings in those counties.
Ford said it was temporarily reinstating a face mask requirement at all of its plants located in areas deemed high-risk by the CDC.
Stellantis said that starting on Monday, "company-issued face masks will again be required for employees, contractors and visitors at all Stellantis facilities" in those Michigan counties. The company added, "it is expected that the requirement will be in place for the next two weeks."
GM said it "will be implementing COVID protection measures at our facilities in Oakland, Wayne, Livingston and Macomb counties given the CDC has now listed them as high risk."
The United Auto Workers union said Sunday if "a facility is located in high-risk counties as identified by the CDC, they will require masking and physical distancing."
GM and Ford both have their headquarters in Wayne County, while Stellantis' North American headquarters is in Oakland County, while all three have numerous factories in southeastern Michigan.
The CDC says 4.25% of U.S. counties https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view?list_select_state=all_states&list_select_county=all_counties&data-type=CommunityLevels&null= are currently listed as having high levels of COVID-19.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)