General Motors, Toyota workers in Texas to continue wearing face masks at work
Reporting by Automotive News indicates that despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott's executive order lifting the mask mandate statewide and allowing businesses to begin operating at 100-percent capacity again, automakers aren't changing their tune.
This executive order rescinds most of the Governor's earlier executive orders related to COVID-19. The original orders were put in place as a response to rising COVID-19 cases, and related hospitalizations and deaths, in 2020.
The new order removes state regulations and allows private businesses and individuals to decide on their mask wearing protocol and habits. There are currently mask mandates in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
There are fallbacks in place. A release from the Governor's office states, "If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, County Judges may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask. If restrictions are imposed at a County level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50% for any type of entity."
Toyota, which has a factory in San Antonio, Texas told a reporter with Automotive News that they are looking into the move but don't anticipate any immediate changes to their mask-wearing protocol. Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. employs 2,542 people and makes the midsize Tacoma and full-size Tundra pickup trucks.
The automaker as has its North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas. That facility employs around 4,400 people, most of whom have been working remotely for the better part of a year.
"The early read is – no change for us," said Scott Vazin, Group Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Toyota Motor North America, when approached for comment by Automotive News.
Toyota assembly plants traditionally offers tours of its facility to the general public. Due to COVID-19, plant tours have been suspended at all Toyota manufacturing facilities including those in San Antonio; Jackson, Tennessee; Blue Spring, Mississippi; and Troy, Missouri.
General Motors (GM) has a big footprint in Texas. The company employs 8,133 people in the Lone Star State and works with 297 suppliers in the state across 13 facilities. Additionally, as of 2020, there are 588 GM dealership franchises in Texas.
The company's Arlington Assembly plant is home to every new full-size SUV in GM's product lineup sold globally: the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and the Cadillac Escalade. GM Financial is headquartered in Fort Worth and one of GM's IT Innovation Centers is located in Austin. Assembly plants get much of their power from wind energy harvested from Cactus Flats and Hidalgo wind farms.
There are GM Financial centers in San Antonio, Arlington, and Sugar Land; a customer service center in Austin; a parts distribution site in Fort Worth; GM Financial headquarters in Fort Worth; a commercial lending office and the South Central Regional Office are in Irving.
Patrick Morrissey, Director, Corporate News Relations at GM, told Automotive News, "We'll keep our COVID safety protocols in place to ensure we continue to protect our employees."