Michigan governor warns auto plants may shut if residents don’t wear masks

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warned Wednesday that auto factories in her state could be shut down again if residents don’t follow her order to wear masks and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“If Michiganders don’t mask up when we go out in public, cases could rise and we could be forced to close down more of our businesses, including auto manufacturing plants that employ thousands,” Whitmer said at a press conference in Lansing, Mich. “A second wave of this virus could be absolutely devastating.”

The warning comes as automakers are cranking up output at factories to try to meet surprisingly strong demand, especially for pickups and sport-utility vehicles. General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles temporarily shuttered their factories in Michigan and elsewhere in the U.S. in March to help control the COVID-19 outbreak.

Whitmer cleared the way for those plants to reopen in May amid signs the pandemic was receding in her state.

Among the automakers dependent on their Michigan factories, Ford has a lot riding on local production of its redesigned top-selling F-150 pickup and revived Bronco SUV after a quarter century hiatus. GM is running its plants full out to replenish truck inventories.

On Wednesday, Michigan reported 891 new cases of COVID-19, the most daily new cases since May 14. That brings Michigan’s total number of cases to 71,197. The state says 6,085 residents have died of the disease.

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