Boeing (NYSE:BA) on Monday said it was suspending all operations in the Puget Sound region for two weeks in response to the escalating COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the region.
The aerospace giant said that it was shutting down airplane manufacturing and maintenance of parked jets in the region beginning on Wednesday, March 25. The decision comes a day after a Boeing employee died from a COVID-19 infection, which has hit the greater Seattle region particularly hard.
Workers in the region who can work from home will continue to do so. Those who cannot work remotely will receive paid leave for the initial 10 working days of the suspension, meaning no pay will be lost if Boeing is able to resume normal operations in two weeks time.
"This necessary step protects our employees and the communities where they work and live," Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in a statement. "We continue to work closely with public health officials, and we're in contact with our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders who are affected by this temporary suspension. We regret the difficulty this will cause them, as well as our employees, but it's vital to maintain health and safety for all those who support our products and services, and to assist in the national effort to combat the spread of COVID-19."
Boeing said that during the suspension it will do a deep cleaning at impacted sites and establish a criteria for allowing employees to return to work.
The suspension is for health reasons, but Boeing's customers are unlikely to object. Airlines have been among the hardest hit sectors by the pandemic, and carriers have been busy bringing down schedules and cutting costs. Major airlines have grounded upwards of half of their fleets.
Boeing and its suppliers are expected to take a hit from the groundings, with Boeing requesting up to $60 billion in government aid to support the commercial aerospace supply chain. General Electric said Monday it was cutting its aviation workforce by 10% as part of a broader effort to conserve cash.