Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler shutting down factories amid Coronavirus

Under increasing pressure from the United Auto Workers union and amid multiple confirmed coronavirus cases originating from factories, Detroit's big three automakers are closing their plants for the time being.

Despite striking a deal with the UAW to only partially close plants and bolster cleaning efforts within factories, Ford, General Motors, and Fiat-Chrysler all bowed out Wednesday in a decision that some workers feel came too late.

"I wish they would have shut the factories down like the governor shut the rest of the state down to take care of us like everyone else's," said a Ford assembly plant worker.

After meeting for hours late Tuesday night, UAW leaders struck a deal with representatives from each automaker to continue building cars, even as a global economic shutdown continued worsening amid fears of the COVID-19 pandemic could shutter more manufacturing.

Then early Wednesday, additional coronavirus cases tied to auto workers began to appear. After Ford said it would close part of its assembly plant in Wayne after an employee there tested positive, the dominoes began to fall. Not long after, the company announced it would cease production in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico facilities after Thursday evening's shifts through March 30.

Then, GM said it would also temporarily suspend North American productions due to market conditions and to deep clean facilities. 

A statement was released later Wednesday that FCA was also stopping production until the end of March.

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After the deal struck last night, UAW workers were spotted exiting the Sterling Heights FCA plant, saying they were walking out. While the UAW contends that wasn't a directive handed down by the organization, the tensions that began to bubble up late Tuesday only continued to build as more cases were confirmed.

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Cases in Michigan as of Wednesday morning are at 80, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said gatherings need to be limited to 50 people or less. Yet thousands are still working among each other at the Big Three factories.

Tuesday night, the UAW met with executives from the Big Three to discuss their options.

During that meeting, the UAW and the big three automakers agreed not to close manufacturing plants in exchange for new safety measures and an increase in adherence to CDC recommendations on social distancing in the workplace.

The agreement also includes rotating partial shutdowns of facilities, extensive deep cleaning of those facilities and equipment between shifts.

Since the first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Michigan on March 10, Gov. Whitmer has declared a state emergency, closed all schools, prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people, restricted visits to hospitals and other facilities, closed public spaces such as theaters, bars, gyms and casinos, and limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders.  

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 2 for more information as we get it.