The president of General Dynamics Electric Boat said Saturday he has tested positive for the coronavirus, the seventh at the Groton shipbuilder.
Kevin Graney, president of the submarine manufacturer, said his symptoms are mild while is temperature has not topped 100 degrees and that he is working from home.
Chief Operating Officer Kurt A. Hesch will lead the company “for normal daily activities and events,” he said.
“While we have been talking about symptoms like fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and body aches, my own experience with symptoms was pretty subtle,” he said in a statement emailed by the company. “Overnight on Wednesday into Thursday this week, I developed what felt like a low grade fever.
“Under normal circumstances, I would’ve been tempted to take a few Tylenol and report to work,” he said.
Graney, 56, instead heeded medical advice and stayed home. He said he has some nasal congestion and a low grade fever. Employees who were near Graney and had close contact have been notified and are monitoring their health, he said.
Graney said Friday that EB has confirmed six cases of COVID-19. Not all are in Groton, with some at the shipbuilder’s site in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and a training site in South Carolina.
“As I communicated to you earlier this week, we must continue to make every effort to improve social distancing,” Graney said in his message Friday.
Several EB workers have complained since the outbreak of the pandemic that the company has not done enough to enforce proper social distancing.
Deemed “essential” under Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive orders, EB has put in place a hygiene and social distancing protocol and adopted new shift schedules in New London to reduce the density of workers, Graney said in a message to workers. In the early days of the pandemic’s spread, on March 20, Graney urged workers to maximize use of policies and collective bargaining agreements that allow for flexible work schedules “where possible.”
That could include temporarily allowing for flexible shift start and stop times, temporarily changing shifts, using flexible work schedules and working on weekends when work is available.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in an interview Friday he has talked to several workers and members of his staff have spoken to 15 or 20 EB employees.
Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Graney circulated a memo about EB doing a better job in social distancing, possibly in response to complaints. He also said EB should adopt a “more realistic policy on sick leave.” Electric Boat’s sick leave policy is limited and workers are afraid to keep working “because they can’t afford to take off,” he said.
“It’s enlightened self interest,” he said. “You do not want sick people working because other people will get sick. The health and safety of this workforce is a matter of national security."
A spokeswoman for EB did not immediately respond to a request for comment but Graney told workers on March 24 that the company’s policy has been changed to allow “maximum flexibility” for time off to care for themselves and families.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said in a statement Saturday that EB is “continually looking at additional ways to reduce risk for the people who work there.”
Courtney, whose district includes the Groton shipyard and who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, cited efforts to reduce social contact as much as possible, expand telework to more workers involved in design and modify shift schedules to reduce density.
EB is under pressure to meet Navy production deadlines and an agreement in December for a $22 billion contract includes a six-month review period to look at its performance.
Courtney said his staff has been working with Navy acquisition officials to adopt “new, flexible rules on schedule and cost” in the contracting process to ensure that shipyards will not be penalized for adhering to federal health guidance related to the coronavirus.
This article is written by Stephen Singer from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.