Tobacco giant Altria (NYSE:MO) announced late last week that it was suspending production of cigarettes at its Richmond manufacturing facility after a second worker there tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
The suspension will last for two weeks, though the company said it was not worried about having a sufficient supply of cigarettes to meet demand, as it reportedly has about two months worth of inventory based upon current shipment volume.
In addition to the two employees, Altria Chairman and CEO Howard Willard was diagnosed last week with COVID-19 and took a temporary leave of absence. CFO William Gifford is assuming Willard's responsibilities while he is out.
Altria will continue paying its employees for the two-week period when production is suspended. It has also suspended some domestic operations related to cigar manufacturing, as it has experienced supply disruptions.
Altria shipped 23.1 billion units of cigarettes in the fourth quarter along with 413 million cigars. The Richmond facility is Philip Morris USA's primary manufacturing facility for cigarettes and some other tobacco products.