Since Indiana began to reopen, a lot of focus is on the surge in COVID-19 cases in Elkhart. Elkhart has also been the source of many complaints from those working in the RV industry recently who feel unsafe in their workplace.
The problem is so concerning, that RV manufacturers say they may have to close plants again, even with the rise in demand for new RVs by consumers.
“It’s elbow to elbow depending on what your job is and where you are at on the line. I know that there is time where I’m sharing a 10 ft. x 25 ft. box with nine people,” an anonymous Elkhart RV employee told WNDU-TV.
Elkhart, one of the Indiana’s leading coronavirus hotspots, is also home to the RV capital of the world and over the last couple of months, that world has been turned upside down as many RV employees have said they have struggled to find their safe spot during the pandemic.
“There is no concern with how we are spreading this or what we are doing as far as the employees go. They really just care about numbers and getting the units out that they promised in contract that they would be able to produce,” the anonymous employee says.
The idea of many returning to work and COVID-19 spreading throughout the workplace unknowingly has also been a major concern for many employees, one that some say is being kept secret among upper management to keep production going and protect the company’s bottom line.
Just this past week, as the state enters Stage 4 of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s reopening plan Friday, RV Business reports that Elkhart leaders are warning they might need to shut down again rather than ramp up. Officials are pleading with local businesses to enforce safety measures and are making plans to find housing so infected residents in large households can self-isolate from their families to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.
“Discussion have begun about possibly opening up some dorm rooms or the fairgrounds to separate infected family members from crowded households,” County Health Department Spokeswoman Melanie Sizemore said. “We are seeing rapid community spread.”
Of paramount concern in the “RV manufacturing capital of the world” is a potentially dangerous intersection of risks: dozens of factories and two working populations that are considered high risk for a variety of reasons, Hispanics and the Amish.
“They work in essential occupations and factories in close proximity to others,” where infections risk is elevated, said Richard Aguirre, a community impact coordinator at Goshen College. “And then they go home.”