Boeing temporarily shutting down Puget Sound production operations due to coronavirus outbreak

SEATTLE — Boeing announced Monday a temporary suspension of production at its Puget Sound facilities in light of the escalating coronavirus outbreak.

The shutdown comes after a Boeing employee died from the virus. Officials say that out of 70,000 Puget Sound area workers, 25 have confirmed COVID-19.

The shutdown will last 14 days beginning Wednesday, March 25.

"This necessary step protects our employees and the communities where they work and live," said Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun.

A press release said that during the shutdown, deep cleaning will be conducted at impacted sites and the company will be monitoring government guidance before reopening operations.

Employees who can work from home will continue to do so, and those who cannot work remotely will receive paid leave for the first 10 working days.

Boeing’s shutdown comes after a worker died of COVID-19. Worker Elton Washington died after testing positive for the coronavirus, his brother said. Lionel Washington said he bother was a single father who was supporting his 14-year-old son after his wife died of cancer. He was taken off life support Sunday.

“For the life of me I can’t understand why Boeing didn’t shut down all plants and they had cases,” Lionel Washington told KIRO 7. “They had cases in front of them saying these are the people that are sick from the virus and it’s spreading.”

Washington said his brother’s 14-year-old son and 30-year-old daughter are now in quarantine out of fear they also may have the coronavirus. Elton Washington was 58 years old.

Boeing operates two huge commercial aviation production facilities in the Seattle area, one in Everett and another in Renton. Its Everett facility, north of Seattle, is the largest building in the world and produces airplanes like the 787 and 777. About 30,000 people work there.

Its plant in Renton, south of Seattle, produces the 737 line. About 12,000 workers help assemble planes there.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin released the following statement:

"In light of the state of emergency, I am grateful to Boeing for making what I know was not an easy decision to temporarily suspend operations at its Puget Sound area facilities. Throughout the past few weeks they’ve made considerable efforts to ensure the safety and hygiene of their production facilities. Closing the production facility, however, will further reduce the potential to spread COVID-19. I thank them for taking this step to help keep our residents and workers healthy and safe.”

Gov. Jay Inslee also released a statement:

“I spoke with Boeing Commercial CEO Stan Deal early this morning. I applaud Boeing’s decision to implement an orderly shutdown and continue to pay its workers during this difficult time. Now is a time for bold actions like these, and we will continue to look at what can be done statewide."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.