WASHINGTON -- The Detroit 3 automakers and the UAW said Tuesday that they will reinstate the wearing of masks at all U.S. plants, offices and warehouses, regardless of vaccination status, beginning Wednesday.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis said in a joint statement with the union that the change is in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent change in mask guidance for fully vaccinated people related to the Delta variant.
"The Task Force met and, after reviewing the recently changed CDC guidelines and community COVID-19 trends, decided it is best for worker safety to resume wearing masks in all worksites," the statement said.
"While we know that masks can be uncomfortable, the spread of the Delta variant and recent data outlining the alarmingly high rate of transmission among those unvaccinated is a serious health threat."
Toyota Motor Corp. said effective Wednesday it will reinstate mask requirements at nearly all U.S. facilities, with the exception of two Michigan sites that are in counties with moderate transmission rates.
Nissan Motor Co. also said Tuesday it was reinstating its mask requirements for all U.S. employees. Volkswagen said it was requiring masks at U.S. facilities in COVID-19 hot spots, while Daimler's Mercedes-Benz U.S. unit said it had reinstated mask requirements at U.S. plants late last week.
The UAW does not support requiring all workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and U.S. automakers have not mandated vaccines. The union and automakers are strongly encouraging workers to get vaccinated.
"We are urging all UAW members and their families to get vaccinated. The science is telling us very clearly that the only way to get back to normal is to reach a heightened level of immunity," UAW President Ray Curry told members in a letter Tuesday. "However, we also know that for some, there are religious and health reasons for not getting vaccinated."
The CDC said last week fully vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in public spaces in places with substantial or high COVID-19 community transmission rates. The CDC said on Monday that almost 80 percent of U.S. counties are now at those levels.
In June, the Detroit automakers and UAW announced that fully vaccinated workers at their U.S. factories would not have to wear masks on the job beginning on July 12. Numerous automakers operating in the United States had already begun lifting pandemic mask mandates as cases declined.
Automotive News contributed to this report.