New York (CNN Business)Ford (F) announced on Saturday it will provide Covid-19 testing in four metro areas for hourly and salaried employees who are experiencing coronavirus symptoms. The locations will include cities where it operates plants.
The automaker signed contracts with health systems to conduct testing in Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas City and Chicago. Ford said it will work with the following health centers to conduct testing: Beaumont Health in Michigan, the University of Louisville Health in Louisville, Kentucky, Liberty Hospital in the Kansas City area, and the University of Chicago Medical Center and UChicago Medicine-Ingalls Memorial Hospital in the Chicago area. “Fast and accurate testing is a key tool in the effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Walter Talamonti, Ford’s medical director, said in a statement. “These contracts will allow us to test employees with suspected symptoms and have results back within 24 hours. If they test positive, we can quickly identify close contact employees who may have been exposed and ask them to self-quarantine for 14 days.”The testing process varies for each location. Symptomatic employees in Louisville will have to schedule a telemedicine appointment with a doctor. In the Kansas City area, employees will receive an on-site prescription before proceeding to drive-thru testing. Employees in the Chicago area will be advised to call one of Chicago’s health centers for a phone screening, and then, if appropriate, will be given a same-day testing appointment. Ford says it’s aiming to provide results in 24 hours at all four locations. Read MoreThe company will initially focus on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which is used to detect the presence of viral RNA, not the presence of the antibodies, which are the body’s immune response. This type of testing allows for those who are actively infected to be identified. The announcement comes on the heels of Ford and other United States automakers such as Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) and General Motors (GM) preparing to reopen facilities this month. Ford said it plans to resume production and operations in North America starting May 18. That includes the return of nearly 12,000 employees whose jobs are unable to be done remotely. Ford’s parts distribution center in North America resumed operations on May 11. The company introduced a return-to-work playbook with some of its newest safety and health protocols, which includes required face masks for everyone entering a Ford facility and no-touch temperature scans upon arrival. The automaker plans to expand Covid-19 testing to additional locations and is pursuing the possibility of voluntary antibody testing in the future.