Hope Global shuts plant after workers fall ill with COVID-19

HOPING FOR A TURNAROUND: With some suppliers and customers having gone out of business recently, CEO Cheryl Merchant says sales are down at Hope Global, which employs more than 300 in Cumberland. /
MANUFACTURER Hope Global has closed its Cumberland facility after some workers tested positive for COVID-19.

CUMBERLAND — Manufacturer Hope Global has temporarily shut down its operations here after several workers fell ill and were later found to have had the novel coronavirus.

CEO Leslie Taito confirmed the plant closure on Tuesday, saying it was done out of an “abundance of caution.” She would not elaborate on the worker illnesses when reached by Providence Business News by telephone. It is unclear how long the plant will be closed.

The closure came last week, according to David Chenevert, executive director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, who said he spoke to Taito.

According to Chenevert, two manufacturing employees worked at their jobs, then at shift’s end spoke to their supervisor about having fevers. They were later tested and found to have COVID-19, Chenevert said. He said several other employees at the site later tested positive as well.

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Hope Global is an engineered textile manufacturer that employs about 800 people, according to its profile on LinkedIn. In PBN’s 2020 Book of Lists, the Rhode Island-based company is listed as having 227 full-time, local employees. It has a worldwide presence, with facilities in Mexico, China and Brazil, among other locations. Its markets include the automotive industry.

The company played a pivotal role with the manufacturing association in developing practices for Rhode Island manufacturing sites to remain safe from COVID-19 infection, Chenevert said, and he felt the company had followed those procedures.

“Is that the fault of the employer?” he said of the infections. “Or is that because the employees who had the fever … came into work?”

This week, Chenevert said he ordered 160 no-contact thermometers for manufacturers to use to check the temperatures of arriving employees. He said he wasn’t sure if Hope Global had been using something similar. The R.I. Department of Health has told the manufacturers it can use them to check employees.

A spokesman for the R.I. Department of Health could not be reached for comment on Tuesday on whether it is working with Hope Global.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer at the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.

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