The outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Brazil has a rotational molding machinery company enacting health and safety protocols that could hamper production.
Rotoline Industrial Equipment Ltda. announced that it is taking "preventative measures" that will reduce the number of employees scheduled to be at the plant to lower the risk of community spread.
Rotoline has operations at its headquarters plant in Chapecó, Brazil, as well as Kent, Ohio.
On March 2, Rotoline Commercial Director Raphaeli De Luccas told Plastics News that he and other company employees had been infected by the virus earlier on, were treated and "we went through just fine with only minor symptoms."
However, De Luccas reiterated that Brazil is a hot spot and the company needed to act to prevent more employees and community members from getting sick with the virus.
"Brazil is currently experiencing the second wave of COVID-19, with a significant increase in the number of cases and deaths," De Luccas said in an email, adding intensive care unit beds are "100 percent occupied due to the virus."
To slow the spread, all Rotoline employees who can work from home are doing so and others are using vacation time. Face masks are required everywhere inside the company. Hand sanitizers are provided and lunch and work schedules have been rearranged so employees can keep socially distanced and avoid crowding the company restaurant.
De Luccas said, "We took this path to avoid being a mass contamination" site.
Several Brazilian states have seen a rise in coronavirus infections and overwhelmed hospitals across the country. The spike is being driven by more contagious variants moving around the globe.
Chapecó is in the state of Santa Catarina in the southern region of Brazil. The state had the second highest number of total cases (663,699) and was No. 11 among the most deaths (7,242) in the country as of Feb. 27, according to a tracking website.
Rotoline officials said they hope customers understand their complicated working conditions and that they are doing their best to meet project timelines.
"We reiterate our commitment with all our customers, especially in relation to the deadlines already established for the delivery of our products and we will do our best to comply with them," the company said in an email.
De Luccas said the safety measures "should not greatly affect deliveries that were already scheduled to happen."
Founded in 2000, Rotoline machines are used to manufacture kayaks, dog houses, playscapes, chairs and planters.
Rotoline's website says it manufactured the first cylindrical machine in 2000 followed by its first shuttle machine model in 2001. The company made its first U.S. sale in 2002. The product line also includes carousel machines; lab machines for rotomolding pilot production for quality tests and pigments; machines to mold large parts, tanks and boats; and open-flame machine to reduce gas consumption.
Rotoline's announcement came at the end of a week in which Brazil's COVID-19 death toll surpassed 250,000 — second only to the United States, where there have been more than 500,000 deaths.
Operations continue in Ohio, but the facility has been notified there could be delays in receiving shipments from Brazil.
Health officials in Brazil have warned that the problems will worsen as the country enters a "new stage of the pandemic" marked by variants that are three times more contagious than earlier strains of the virus.
Brazil also reportedly has struggled to procure doses of the vaccines for its 212 million citizens. President Jair Bolsonaro, who questions the use of face masks, quarantines and social distancing, has said he doesn't plan to get a shot.