Newport News shipbuilders encouraged to wear face masks to work; 15 cases of COVID-19 at NNS


NEWPORT NEW, Va. (WAVY) — The leader of Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) sent a letter to workers encouraging them to wear face masks as they continue to work through the coronavirus pandemic.

As of April 7, Newport News Shipbuilding is reporting 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding and vice president of Huntington Ingalls Industries, said that workers should wear a cloth face mask to work, “especially when you are not able to maintain a distance of six feet in your work area.”

“While I know there has been confusion over this, for me included, the new CDC guidance… for wearing masks and face coverings says that it is better to wear them than not,” Boykin wrote.

NNS is buying face coverings for all employees, but it will take a few days for them to get to the yard and be distributed to shipbuilders because of high demand. In the meantime, the shipyard’s Sail Loft team is making face coverings that have been given to more than 1,000 shipbuilders. NNS is also providing shipbuilders with materials to make their own masks, Boykin said.

Directions to make your own face coverings can be found on the CDC website.

NNS will continue to distribute masks made by employees and purchased by the business, as well as fabric for shipbuilders to make their own masks, as the material becomes available, Boykin said.

NNS is offering liberal leave for shipbuilders who feel unsafe coming to work. Those who are working are asked to stand six feet apart when coming into and leaving the shipyard, as well as during their lunch break, Boykin said.

“In all of the ever-changing guidance, the one recommendation that has held steadfast is the 6-foot social distancing guidance,” Boykin said.

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