By Tia Lynn Ivey
A total of five employees at Georgia Pacific in Madison have tested positive for COVID-19, the highly contagious and potentially lethal coronavirus ravaging the globe. The company would not confirm whether or not those who tested positive live in Morgan County or travel from outside counties to work.
According to Georgia Pacific Spokesman Rick Kimble, the Madison manufacturing plant is doing everything it can to mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of employees.
Georgia Pacific, one of the world’s leading manufacturing companies producing tissue, pulp, packaging, building products and related chemicals, is deemed an essential business and has been operating during the pandemic, which has required non-essential businesses to close and citizens to shelter-in-place.
The Madison plant, one of the largest employers in Morgan County, has 440 full-time employees. According to Kimble, the first employee tested positive for the coronavirus on April 13. Two more tested positive by Friday, April 17. And another two tested positive over the weekend.
Every time an employee tests positive, Georgia Pacific launches an investigation, interviewing the infected, to try and determine which areas and which employees the infected person has come into contact with.
“We have a very strict protocol in place,” said Kimble. “Both the infected employee and employees they’ve come into contact with, or even in close range with, are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.”
Kimble confirmed all employees asked to self-quarantine are given paid leave.
Due to the increase of infections at the plant, Georgia Pacific remained closed on Monday, April 20 to bring in a special industrialized cleaning crew to thoroughly disinfect the facilities. The company reopened on Tuesday, April 21.
Rumors circulated that some employees walked out last week over safety concerns due to the coronavirus cases, but Kimble denied it.
“That is just a silly rumor,” said Kimble. “Theres a lot of stuff going around on social media. There is enough bad stuff going on as it is, we don’t need all this added hype.”
Kimble noted the crucial services Georgia Pacific provides, especially during such an unprecedented pandemic.
“I think as an essential company, we are doing as best we can trying to keep operations going, so we can keep the construction material supplies to critical organizations, like hospitals, to keep those critical supplies coming to them,” explained Kimble. “We have a very strong and robust pandemic plan following all the CDC guidelines and how to manage through this situation.”