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Molded Fiber Glass Reports First Case of Coronavirus; Like Demkota, No Shutdown Mentioned

Molded Fiber Glass has become the second major Aberdeen employer to report a case of coronavirus among its workforce. The wind turbine blade plant, which has been reported to employ over 400, reported over the weekend that one employee has tested positive for covid-19. Mayor Travis Schaunaman assures us we don’t have anything to worry about:

“They did report in one case, but it was a brand new hire, so I don’t anticipate spread from that employee,” Schaunaman said in an email to the American News on Sunday.

He said that MFG has proactive measures in place for screening and spread-prevention at the Aberdeen facility that manufactures blades for wind turbines [Kelda J.L. Pharris, “Brown County Adds Three Positive COVID-19 Cases; One Confirmed at MFG,” Aberdeen American News, 2020.04.19].

Friday brought news that Demkota Ranch Beef, the slaughterhouse on the opposite edge of Aberdeen that also employs hundreds of residents, has its first case of covid-19. There, too, Mayor Schaunaman says business leaders are doing everything necessary to keep us safe:

“The Department of Health was on site on Friday and I set up a meeting with DemKota, the state epidemiologist, our hospitals and medical professionals who worked on Smithfield,” Schaunaman said. “We reviewed their preventative measures and provided guidance to continue to implement new strategies as they move forward. I am confident that DemKota is much better prepared than Smithfield was given the additional guidance and time that they’ve had to prepare. The state and medical leaders want them to continue to operate with these precautionary measures” [Pharris, 2020.04.19].

As with Demkota and with Smithfield in Sioux Falls, this first positive case at MFG does not appear to be prompting an immediate shutdown.

Shutting down two of Aberdeen’s major employers for two weeks of testing and monitoring of employees would have negative economic impacts. But not shutting them down and letting the coronavirus spread to more workers, families, and neighbors will have equal if not greater negative economic impacts, says a recent MIT study:

The study, using data from the flu pandemic that swept the U.S. in 1918-1919, finds cities that acted more emphatically to limit social and civic interactions had more economic growth following the period of restrictions.

Indeed, cities that implemented social-distancing and other public health interventions just 10 days earlier than their counterparts saw a 5 percent relative increase in manufacturing employment after the pandemic ended, through 1923. Similarly, an extra 50 days of social distancing was worth a 6.5 percent increase in manufacturing employment, in a given city.

“We find no evidence that cities that acted more aggressively in public health terms performed worse in economic terms,” says Emil Verner, an assistant professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of a new paper detailing the findings. “If anything, the cities that acted more aggressively performed better” [Peter Dizikes, “The Data Speak: Stronger Pandemic Response Yields Better Economic Recovery,” MIT News, 2020.03.31].

Wind turbine blades and beef are both important to the local economy. So are the workers who make them. The most important thing those workers can be paid to do right now, for themselves and for their community, is stay home for at least two weeks.


  1. KOREY JACKSON 2020-04-20 10:48


    Interesting news.

    There are probably economic analyses which reasonably conclude aggressive protection policies, and prompt action by employers and their management to notification of a positive test in their workforce, provides improved economic benefits, or at least minimize business losses.

    Current CDC guidelines in contact tracing and subsequent quarantine leaves room for interpretation. What is close physical proximity? What is a prolonged period of time?

    There are similar issues with our grocery stores. If an employee tests positive, and was coughing, should the entire store shut down? Or the entire shift? For how long?

    Sure, a deep cleaning, ensuring employees (and customers) wear masks, and forehead temperature scanning are prudent measures, but are they sufficient?

    Should customers be notified?

    How far do the COVID-positive employees’ HIPAA rights extend?
    Won’t fellow employees notice the absence of those placed in isolation and quarantine?
    What rights, if any, do non-quarantined employees have to know who was exposed, and to make their own determination for self-quarantine?

  2. jerry 2020-04-20 11:03

    How much does it cost to retrain a lost employee? How about 100? What happens to the production lines when key employees become incapacitated due to being sick on the job?

    Customers have been notified in Walmart, as an example, so yeah, customers need to be notified of the sick person and the times of day they were on shift, as was done. Same thing in Lane, South Dakota.

  3. KOREY JACKSON 2020-04-20 14:09


    Good points.

    The Lane Cafe in Lane is pretty intimate, so customers there may well fit the CDC criteria for quarantine (close physical contact for prolonged periods of time), or at least closely monitor for coronavirus symptoms for the next few weeks.

    But shouldn’t we all be closely monitoring for coronavirus symptoms?

    How many grocery stores, or restaurants with curb-side or take-out services, have employees among South Dakota’s current 1,685 positive-tested?
    Do public health officials owe the general public that information, or should that be voluntarily provided by the business?

    Walmart policies do provide the appearance of being proactive, and deserve credit for their public notifications. But even Walmart has not required, until today (20 April 2020), its employees to wear face coverings.

  4. jerry 2020-04-20 15:55

    I read that at the wind charger place in North Dakota, National Guard troops were administering the tests. Korey, the problem that will not go away is that we need tests to make sure we are not carriers and that those that serve us are not either. Until then, all is for nothing. GNOem purrs like a little kitten around the old tom cat trump, she should get a lot closer so we can get some tests to safely live our work lives and our family lives.

  5. jerry 2020-04-20 15:58

    Korey, check this out to see the outright treason and corruption from the trump white house.

    “As a chief physician executive, I rarely get involved in my health system’s supply-chain activities. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed that. Protecting our caregivers is essential so that these talented professionals can safely provide compassionate care to our patients. Yet we continue to be stymied by a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the cavalry does not appear to be coming.

    Our supply-chain group has worked around the clock to secure gowns, gloves, face masks, goggles, face shields, and N95 respirators. These employees have adapted to a new normal, exploring every lead, no matter how unusual. Deals, some bizarre and convoluted, and many involving large sums of money, have dissolved at the last minute when we were outbid or outmuscled, sometimes by the federal government. Then we got lucky, but getting the supplies was not easy.”

    We are now forced to smuggle needed medical supplies. Why don’t we just hire the drug cartels and put them to work.

  6. Debbo 2020-04-20 18:29

    Distancing, everyone masked and divide barriers are a must.

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