Newport News Shipbuilding moving from three to two shifts
NNS will also start taking temperature of anyone entering shipyard
Newport News Shipbuilding is moving from three shifts to two shifts beginning Monday, with a three-hour period in between to allow cleaning of high-touch surfaces, President Jennifer Boykin announced Thursday during a virtual news conference. As another response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company will also begin taking the temperatures of everyone entering the shipyard beginning Friday.
Currently, most workers are on the first shift, and significantly fewer are on second and third shifts, Boykin said, so the change Monday will mean more people will work the second shift, reducing the number of workers on first shift and allowing for better social distancing.
Thirty-five employees out of the company’s 25,000-person workforce have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 23, and everyone entering the shipyard is required to wear a mask.
Screeners will be posted at each of the shipyard’s seven open gates, taking temperatures with infrared, non-contact temperature readers, Boykin added. If anyone has a temperature 100 degrees or higher, they will undergo a secondary temperature screening. Anyone who tests twice for a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will be sent home.
“We’ll adjust as we go,” Boykin said, noting that placards placed on the ground will help maintain a distance of six feet between people waiting for their temperature to be taken.
Boykin said that NNS has worked closely with the Virginia Department of Health, the Navy and officials from Sentara and Riverside health care systems, and the shipyard has been following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
NNS has allowed liberal leave for its employees since March, but as an essential business, the shipyard has continued work on its large backlog of shipbuilding projects, including a $22.2 billion Navy contract awarded last year to NNS and General Dynamics Electric Boat — the largest shipbuilding contract in Navy history — to build five high-tech, fast-attack submarines.
“The Navy has been very proactive from the start of the pandemic,” Boykin said, noting that the shipyard has been in “constant contact” with the Pentagon and other key players since the start of the outbreak. “At this point, we’re making decisions daily about prioritizing work [and] the condition of the supply base, and I’m sure those assessments will continue as we go forward. The key right now is to make sure we stay in close contact with them and that we’re effectively and very safely putting people to work that are coming in to work.”
As for NNS’s The Apprentice School, which shifted to digital learning in March, discussions are now taking place about its summer and fall sports schedules, Boykin said, as well as whether classes will take place this fall in person or online.
The largest industrial employer in Virginia, Newport News Shipbuilding is a division of Newport News-based Fortune 500 company Huntington Ingalls Industries, the nation’s largest military shipbuilding company.