Marcus Hook, Pa. — Workers at a Braskem America polypropylene plant, who gained national headlines for living at their Pennsylvania factory for nearly a month to maintain production of key medical materials, almost got a visit from President Donald Trump.
But the trip to the Marcus Hook site ultimately did not come together after the company and the White House decided it would not be safe, according to a Braskem statement.
"We were deeply honored by the White House's acknowledgment of our production resiliency teams," Braskem North America CEO Mark Nikolich said. "However, after many discussions, the parties agreed due to the nature of petrochemical operations and the safety of our team members and visitors a visit wasn't feasible."
A team of 46 Braskem staff decided in late March to self-quarantine in the plant for 28 days, not leaving or seeing any family or outsiders, to keep production going in the early stages of the country's pandemic lockdown. Another group of workers did the same 28-day shift at Braskem's plant in Neal, W.Va.
The Washington Post reported May 11, quoting unnamed officials and documents it reviewed, that the White House had pushed for a visit in early May and that the company was initially excited but also had reservations about safety.
The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment, but the Post said the company felt it was too risky for the workers.
The Trump administration then suggested a few corporate executives meet Trump instead, but the company had reservations about having anyone inside the plant, fearing it would be difficult to maintain social distancing, the Post reported.
Ultimately, the two parties decided not to have the visit, possibly postponing it until after the pandemic is over, the paper said.
The facility's PP resin is used to make N95 masks, hospital gowns and hoods, sanitary wipes and similar products.
After the initial 28-day quarantine period ended in late April, the factory went on a modified work schedule.
Trump has pointedly expressed reservations in the past about wearing a mask, including after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early April recommended that Americans wear face coverings in public settings where social distancing would be hard to maintain.
President Trump on May 5 visited a factory in Arizona making N95 masks and did not wear a mask. Vice President Mike Pence in late April did not wear a mask while visiting the Mayo Clinic, in violation of the clinic policies, and he later said during a televised town hall that he made a mistake and should have worn a mask.