In this March 23 photo, a worker walks near a mural of a Boeing 747-8 airplane at the company’s manufacturing facility in Everett. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

In this March 23 photo, a worker walks near a mural of a Boeing 747-8 airplane at the company’s manufacturing facility in Everett. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Boeing extends temporary shutdown of Puget Sound plants

The company had planned to reopen on Wednesday. About 60 Everett employees have tested positive.

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. announced Sunday it will extend a temporary shutdown of Puget Sound operations, as well as those in Moses Lake, until further notice as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the nation.

The Chicago-based company initially planned to reopen facilities on Wednesday after a two-week suspension. Sunday’s announcement comes days after Gov. Jay Inslee officially prolonged his stay-at-home order for another month.

So far, 60 Everett employees have contracted coronavirus, said company spokesperson Bernard Choi. That includes people who tested positive while they haven’t been reporting for work at a physical site. Because it can take several days for symptoms to show, it’s not known where employees may have contracted the virus. Boeing has so far tracked 135 cases across company operations, Choi said.

“The health and safety of our employees, their families and our communities is our shared priority,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Stan Deal in a news release. “We will take this time to continue to listen to our incredible team and assess applicable government direction, the spread of the coronavirus in the community and the reliability of our suppliers to ensure we are ready for a safe and orderly return to operations.”

Employees who have volunteered to continue supporting essential work at Boeing sites will continue reporting for work. The company said it is taking extra precautions to protect employees. That includes new visual cues to encourage physical distancing, more frequent and thorough cleaning and staggered shift times to reduce how many workers are arriving or departing at any one time.

In the days leading up to the shutdown last month, employees at Boeing’s Everett campus, where 35,000 people work, became increasingly frustrated with the company’s response to the pandemic. The tipping point seemed to be when a flight-line inspector, 57-year-old Elton Washington, became the first employee to succumb to complications from COVID-19. He died March 22, leaving behind two children and three grandchildren.

As of Sunday, the Snohomish Health District reported a cumulative 1,559 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county and 79 “probable” ones. The total dead since the outbreak began in January was 48 people. Statewide, the state Department of Health has logged 7,984 coronavirus cases and 338 fatalities.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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